Sherwood Center for the Arts 'Brickbending' exhibit
The Sherwood Center for the Arts is showcasing a mind defying exhibit.
Through March 2, the center is featuring geometric artist Jeff Sanders' works called "Brickbending." True to the name, Sanders uses no heat, glue or magic tricks — just bending LEGO bricks to their limit.
The pieces combine art, engineering, mathematics and popular culture. Sanders' work was exactly what the center was looking to feature, said Sherwood Center for the Arts manager Chanda Hall.
"The art that has been exhibited here in the past just seems like there's been a lot of paintings and drawings and two-(dimensional) work, which is lovely," said Hall. "But with the volume of visitors who come through from out of town … time to try something a little bit different and try something more sculptural and textural that really came alive on our walls."
Hall's responsibilities include broadening the definition of what type of art is displayed and surprise people, whether on stage or in the gallery. But displaying the geometric art can be a challenge in itself, she said.
"It's just a higher level of care knowing that a lot of people will want to reach out and touch the art, or it might mean their faces are really close to the (pieces)," Hall added.
But no one else knows how tough it might be to display the large LEGO artworks like Sanders. The artist has traveled from the Portland Metro Area to the United Arab Emirates with his pieces.
Why the UAE?
"I got an email from this festival in the United Arab Emirates, saying, 'Hey, did you know that your artwork is reminiscent of Islamic design?' Sanders said.
He remembers being skeptical of the invitation at first, but then he realized the Sharjah Islamic Arts Festival was, in fact, real.
"They commissioned me to build a 10-square-meter LEGO design based on what I had built in the past," he explained, "and I'd never built anything that big before. I certainly had never shipped 8,000 miles away. But it at the end of the day, I got it built. I recreated it in the Sharjah Museum, and it was absolutely (an) amazing experience."
Sanders describes that experience as his high point.
He didn't know his quirky artistic career would all start by playing LEGOs with his children, he said. His background in mathematics then came in handy once he started developing intricate designs.
"I was far more interested in just creating weird patterns than anything else," said Sanders. "And that's why I discovered that if I put a lot of little pieces together, I could create smooth curves out of LEGOs. And that just blew my mind."
Based on the certain angles and levels of curvature, Sanders quickly realized he would be restricted in the type of works he could make.
"(I) find a bunch of pieces that look interesting, and I can buy 5,000 of them for $40 or $50, and then they'll sit on a shelf a long time because I have no idea what to do with them," he explained. "Then one day, it'll just hit me. I'll be playing with them and I'll create this weird kind of pattern, and then I'll start to iterate on that."
When asked how long it takes him to create a piece, Sanders said, "I'll start to play and I'll create something, and then I'll get four or five hours in and then I'll realize I'm just short on (different) kinds of bricks that I need. … I just completed a piece yesterday that was a year in the making."
Despite difficulties with creating the complex pieces, Hall is excited for others to see them in their finished form.
"We see people glance and then do a double-take," she said with a laugh.
Hall hopes the exhibit helps break the mold of what visitors consider art to be.
"It's important to stay surprised and stay inspired," Hall added, "and stay with the realization that we might not know everything there is to know (about art)."
The gallery is open for viewers during business hours at the Sherwood Center for the Arts, at 22689 S.W. Pine St. There is no cost to attend.
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