In stylish coffee-table book Beautiful LEGO (No Starch Press, October 2013), “internationally acclaimed LEGO® artist” Mike Doyle showcases the work of dozens of his fellow artists from around the world. Elevating the preschool building toy to high art, this book’s gorgeous photographs of hundreds of LEGO sculptures are the draw here. The range of subject matter is mind-boggling. The “builds” go well beyond anything you’d see at a LEGOLAND theme park: there are realistic replicas of everyday objects (a diving mask, a typewriter, a dissected frog), fantastical creatures, silly scenes (my favorite is titled, “Grandpa! You better not be using my loofah again!”), beloved characters (from history and from fiction), real and imaginary structures, and nerdy homages to pop culture (“Nobody Expects…The Spanish Inquisition”).
The sections are arranged thematically (e.g., “Attic Treasures,” “Monsters, Aliens, and Creatures,” “Mosaics,” “The Final Frontier”); some feature the work of one artist, while others group together sculptures by different builders. Brief essays by nine LEGO artists (all men) offer insight into their inspirations and creative processes as they answer the same question: “Why LEGO?” Nathan Sawaya says:
I like using LEGO bricks as a medium because I enjoy seeing people’s reactions to artwork created from something with which they are familiar. Everyone can relate to it because it is a toy that many children have at home. People can appreciate a marble statue at a museum, but when they go home that night, it is very doubtful they will have a slab of marble they can start chipping away at. But people have LEGO bricks, and when they go home after seeing my exhibitions, they are inspired to grab their own bricks and start creating.
Looking at these remarkable pieces, I’m personally more intimidated than inspired, but I can appreciate how each artist celebrates the extraordinary in everyday materials.
The contributors’ list includes at least two women, and it would have been interesting to hear from them, working as they do in what seems to be a male-dominated arena.