A half-million bricks tell tale of nature's connections

Sean Kenney, creator of "Nature Connects" exhibit at Lauritzen Gardens

From a distance they look like giant, colorful animals or insects. Up close it's easy to see these amazing constructions are made of Lego bricks.

The works are by Sean Kenney, who grew up playing with the toy building blocks and loved them so much, he has made a career out of them.

Visitors to Lauritzen Gardens between Saturday and May 19 can see 27 of his intricate sculptures in 14 displays scattered among the plants and other natural wonders in Omaha's Botanical Gardens.

In the “Nature Connects” exhibit, Kenney ties the connections between Lego pieces to the connections found in the natural world. For example, the “Water Platters” display shows connections among water, koi, water lilies, a frog and a dragonfly. (This display depends on frost-free days, so it may not be on view the entire exhibit.) In an 8-foot high sculpture, a hummingbird is paired with a flower. In another, a rabbit is chased by a fox.

“We're very excited about this exhibit,” said gardens spokeswoman Mia Jenkins.

“It has a wonderful message,” she added, referring to how everything in nature — from a drop of water to humans — is connected.

Kenney calls himself a professional kid. In fact, he became the first Lego Certified Professional, a person who doesn't work for Lego but is officially recognized by the company as a trusted business partner because of his or her building proficiency, enthusiasm and love for Lego blocks, and professional approach to Lego fans and the public.

The artist, who lives and works in New York City, has been able to capture a wealth of detail using 500,000 toy blocks. Kenney used the basic rectangular shaped bricks for everything except a few touches, such as the frog's eyes and the buttons on a worker's shirt. He's serious about his work. While some call his medium toys or playthings, he points out that the same could be said for crayons, paint, clay and pencils — all acknowledged art media.

It took him eight months to create the sculptures in “Nature Connects.”

The largest piece is the adult bison, which required more than 45,000 Lego pieces and stands 50 inches high. There is a human garden worker and a lawn mower, in addition to the animals. The show also includes a mosaic depicting the important part human beings play in the ecological picture.

Contact the writer:

402-444-1067, carol.bicak@owh.com

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