“Art Is Not Optional”

A conversation with The Art of the Brick artist Nathan Sawaya 

Most of us can relate to the exhaustion and stress of the work week. We sit in traffic, agonize over deadlines, and mobile order at Starbucks (all day long). When work life becomes too much to bear we turn to our passions. Cooking, writing, singing, exercise, we all have things that are essential to our happiness. Nathan Sawaya, artist and creator of The Art of the Brick exhibition, turned his passion into his career. What started as a “creative outlet” in his New York City apartment became his full time job. Sawaya is an artist whose medium is Lego bricks. His touring exhibition, which opened in Boston in Fall 2022, comprises 80-85 sculptures that examine art through the lens of an accessible toy. To Sawaya, creating art provides the inspiration that makes life worth living, he hopes to share that inspiration with those who visit his exhibition.

Nathan Sawaya started making art in his youth. He said, “My parents encouraged creativity. We always had Play Doh, crayons, and Lego bricks.” However, Sawaya drifted away from art and ultimately became a corporate lawyer. Creating art became his outlet during the stressful work week. He would come home at night and express his creativity through sculpture. Sawaya began sculpting with traditional mediums like clay and wire. Then he thought about a toy from his childhood, he decided to reexamine Lego bricks as an art medium. 

When asked about creating art with Lego bricks, Sawaya said, “Everyone has either played with Legos or stepped on a Lego brick, they are extremely accessible. People have this medium at home, so they can connect to the art on a different level. Hopefully they are inspired to dig out their own Lego bricks and make art.” The true reason for art is inspiration. Sawaya hopes that spectators of his art will be inspired to create anything they want.

In 2004, Nathan Sawaya left his career as an attorney to pursue being a Lego artist full time. When asked about his experience making this decision he said, “There was a tangible moment when I had my website and I was taking commissions from people all over. When the website crashed from too many hits I knew it was the time.” Ultimately, Sawaya’s own happiness was the deciding factor in becoming a full time artist. He said, “I really wasn’t happy as a lawyer. Making art made me happy, so I knew that was the path to take.” Sawaya has never looked back and has enjoyed following his passions professionally for nearly 20 years.

Even during the pandemic, Nathan Sawaya continued making art in his studio, just him, his dog, and some music playing. He is extremely excited about his exhibitions re-opening because traveling has been such a source of inspiration for his work.

Nathan Sawaya’s Instagram bio reads, “Art is not optional.” He considers this to be his mantra. Happiness is the reason Sawaya has continued his career in art even in the face of challenges. He said, “Creating art makes me happier. Creating art makes you a healthier, happier, and smarter person. If art can make you a better person, art can make a better world.” The Art of the Brick serves as an inspiration to follow the things that bring you happiness. If that is art, make more art. Keep practicing and creating what gets you through the week. Creativity, no matter how small, makes a better world.       

1 thought on ““Art Is Not Optional””

  1. Abby you never fail to impress me
    Words were always your thing right from the beginning
    Love you to the moon and back


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