The Wanderer Visits The Art of the Brick at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science
There’s no doubt it’s difficult to imagine going to events in public places right now.
It’s equally hard however, to stay home in self-imposed quarantine, especially for geeks who feel the calling to experience creativity, social interaction, and pop culture.
We still want to live, love, learn, and wander!
Yet, the world changed this year. A pandemic hit. COVID-19 is still lingering in the foreground of nearly every action we take and decision we make.
Socializing, community, public, events; they’ve all become words that are taking on new meanings. Each quite different from what we’ve experienced previously in our lives.
It’s as if we have to build a new way of living brick by brick.
Commonplace tasks like visits to the grocery store or even the bathroom are being done differently. In most cases, venturing out to public gatherings is out of the question.
But some businesses are doing their best to provide opportunities to still have experiences. The Denver Museum of Nature and Science is one such institution.
Anyone who’s visited a science and nature museum knows they generally target families with children. They offer room after room of hands-on experiences. They get excessively crowded, especially when schools out.
Unfortunately, that brand of experience is hands-off right now.
Many businesses, like the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, are making operating adjustments. They’re making an effort stay current with coronavirus health and safety standards.
Commonly-seen protocols like social distance decal splats are found across the floors. Signs are posted on mirrors and the walls within restrooms explaining proper hand washing and door opening procedures.
And of course there are the unfortunate, necessary mask requirements.
In addition to all these standard measures, DMNS is reducing capacity of entrants by eighty percent. They also are implementing timed ticketing to control patron flow.
Individual exhibits are monitored by staff counting guests entering and exiting exhibits. These extraordinary employees are positioned to prevent the sections of the museum from getting overcrowded.
Unfortunately, once inside exhibits, the onus falls on individuals and groups to respect the imaginary six foot bubbles of other guests. And if there’s anything we’re learning from COVID outbreaks over the past months, it’s that individuals and groups are generally inconsiderate idiots—see reference to bathroom signage above.
What DMNS is doing in terms of entrance and capacity limitations is commendable. They almost make the whole experience of being inside a building with strangers feel comfortable. . .almost.
At this point, I wouldn’t go to the museum to see mummies or their extensive gems exhibit. They are cool, just like the nature halls and the rest of the features, but none of these is quite spectacular enough to chance contracting coronavirus.
The museum’s special exhibit, The Art of the Brick, on the other hand, might be.
Despite concerns with emerging from our home for anything but food and work, my family and I decided we would venture forth for a visit to DMNS.
The Art of the Brick is free with general admission through Labor Day.
The exhibit will continue until January 31st, 2021, but after September 7th DMNS will resume charging for the exhibit.
Visitors must book a timed entry for both the museum and The Art of the Brick separately.
We booked entrance at 9:00 a.m. That’s when the museum first opens. We expected there wouldn’t be too many people at the museum that early and we planned to just leave when if our visit felt unsafe or uncomfortable
We arrived at the museum this past Tuesday morning. Ample parking was available in the free underground lot. In the midst of the hottest weeks of the summer, it was nice to know the car would be cool if we had to make our getaway.
After walking inside, and a brief visit with a ticket agent, we headed up to the third floor for The Art of the Brick.
The Art of the Brick is an exhibit of sculptures and paintings comprised entirely of LEGOs®.
The builds displayed were constructed by lawyer turned brick sculptor Nathan Sawaya. Pieces range from the dark and deep to the juvenile and whimsical.
Whether we viewed a reproduction of a famous Augustus Caesar statue or an original piece like those pictured above, a hypnotic and obsessive amount of detail is found in every one.
Sawaya’s creations are surreal. They remind me of Claude Monet. From a distance they appear realistic and lifelike. Up close they become pixelated and feature many jagged edges and sharp angles. I also see Dali and Warhol with a splash of Nintendo® and Disney® as well.
Some creations are presented in a multitude of colors. Others use one or two colors, and those tend to make even more of a statement somehow.
The tone of the exhibit is set from the very first piece.
A sabretooth tiger bust is prominently featured just after entering the exhibit. It’s a recreation of the iconic tiger head found at the entry of the museum two floors below. The eyes of the beast are unlike any I’ve seen on a LEGO® build previously.
Awe and amazement remained with me throughout the entire experience.
Famous works are reproduced with stunning yet pixelated accuracy. There are desperate and anxious pieces like the claustrophobic Grey. Enormous works like Big Blue, a giant size swimmer freestyling through the floor. And there are ones like The Writer, which I connect with in particular.
The final room features a series entitled In Pieces. In Pieces is a multimedia collaboration between Sawaya and photographer David West. Each display features a large framed print of an isolated, minimalist scene where Sawaya’s creations subtly replace mundane items found in the image.
Names like Dress and Train Tracks offer hints at what to seek in each photo. For those where obvious isn’t enough, Sawaya’s build for the image is on display in the room as well.
The Art of the Brick ends in one final treat.
The exhibition ends in a small gift shop where books, t-shirts, masks, and yes, LEGOs® are available for sale at inflated museum prices. But hidden along the edges of the gift shop there are some last surprises for LEGO® and pop art loving eyes.
Four works are displayed created by contest winners in a competition DMNS and Sawaya held for young and amateur bricksters. An amazing giant blue dragonfly is in one corner. My personal favorite, DMNS Science Fair, is in another.
The Art of the Brick was a treat!
Despite the anxiety of having kids and adults penetrating our social distance radius from time to time, the experience was top notch.
I recommend The Art of the Brick to anyone who geeks out over pop art, surrealism, and especially LEGOS®.
Be sure to schedule your visit early on a weekday, or make use of DNMS’s extended hours to minimize the amount of people in the museum with you.
I applaud the Denver Museum of Nature and Science for their efforts in making families feel secure and safe.
The staff is also extremely flexible and kind with customer service and scheduling. They patiently allowed me to work through all of my concerns and questions.
In the end my family and I only lasted about two hours before the museum got too crowded for our liking. I started getting anxious as more and more people wandered into my space. My wonderful wife and editor Kodid felt the same.
We called it a visit and left the museum. We grabbed lunch from the car and sat on the in the adjacent City Park lawn where we ate and talked.
I have mixed feeling about the visit to the museum. The Art of the Brick is wonderful, particularly during a period when board games and Zoom© make up our entertainment options du jour.
But it also felt like a compromise. We bended our willingness to mix with the public in favor of a small taste of the way things used to be.
It’s your call whether or not to attend The Art of the Brick or the Denver Museum of Nature and Science in general. If you decide to go be sure to educate yourself on the current protocols and restrictions ahead of time.
And most importantly, don’t forget to be considerate of others, especially in regards to their space, as if everyone’s lives depend on it.
Thanks for reading this special edition of The Wanderer. I’m grateful to have this opportunity to share the experience with all my 5280 Geeks. There’s no telling when the next one of these will be.
In case you don’t feel safe, or feel it’s too much of a compromise to attend an event like The Art of the Brick, I get it. I snuck in a few extra pictures from the exhibit in hopes you enjoy them as much as I did seeing them.
As usual stay healthy and distant. . .and as always, stay geeky.
Written by John Andreula.
Edited by Kodid Laraque-Two Elk
Hit John on Instagram at: JohnAndreulaWritesStuff
Or Kodid at: Leyla.Kodid
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