Exhibit: Nature Connects
The “Nature Connects” exhibit at the Naples Botanical Garden ran from February 14 to May 11, 2014. The show featured displays built with LEGO bricks by New York artist Sean Kenney. All of the larger-than-life sculptures are inspired by nature and represent the network that interconnects all living things. The “Nature Connects” exhibit is currently touring the country and has been featured in botanical gardens and zoos since 2012 and will continue through 2016.
Kenney had a career as a cartoonist, graphic artist and website developer before he decided to do what he loved, building beauty with LEGO bricks. Today, Sean has become an elite LEGO builder, and with his team designs and creates contemporary sculpture for clients, corporations and venues worldwide.
The sculptures are located all over the Naples Garden, and it takes some determination to find them all because the themed gardens are spread over a wide area. The gardens are lovely, and each time I go to the Naples Garden, there is something different to see. Most recently, new structures include a new visitor center and an orchid house. However, when you are searching for specific LEGO sculptures which are at one with nature, you need to be observant, and in some cases do some detective work to find them, kind of like a treasure hunt. Fortunately, a list of the sculptures was provided, along with the garden in which they were located.
THE CHILDREN’S GARDEN
Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly
The first large sculpture you see in the garden is an in-flight Tiger Swallowtail butterfly. The sculpture is over 5 feet across, was built with 37,481 LEGO pieces and took over 250 hours to design and build. Fittingly, the butterfly is in front of the glass butterfly house in the background.
Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly
The bumblebee is suspended from the ceiling of the fort. It is over 4 feet long and has a 6-foot wingspan. The sculpture contains 16,383 LEGO pieces and took 4 weeks and 160 hours to design, build and glue. By some stroke of luck, the bee was perfectly balanced when he was hoisted into place. The little kids on the left have an eye-level view of the bee.
This life-size gardener was built with 37,497 LEGO pieces and is over 6 feet tall and took 300 hours to design and build. Each piece is glued one-by-one, and a steel armature helps keep the sculpture secured to the ground.
These life-size American Goldfinches are each about 6 inches long and are mounted to a real bird feeder. They were designed with multiple postures and set up to look as realistically posed as possible. Naturally, LEGO birds eat LEGO pieces from the bird feeder.
BRAZILIAN GARDEN PAVILION
Victoria Water Lily Pads
This scene, installed in the top level of the Brazilian Garden waterfall, is built entirely out of 57,132 LEGO bricks and features five giant lily pads, a frog and a water lily (lotus bloom). The lily pads are 5 feet across each -- which is how large these plants actually grow, and each contains 10,598 LEGO pieces (52,990 total). Each lily pad took over 60 hours to build and are glued to a steel armature to keep the sculpture elevated above water level.
Frog on Lily Pads
This cute little frog is life-sized, was built with 530 pieces and installed on one of the giant lily pads.
A Thai Pavilion in the Asian Garden
This Koi fish, installed in a pond, is built out of 1,937 LEGO bricks.
“Trinity Root Maquette," 2003, cast bronze by Steve Tobin,
on loan from the Baker Museum, Artis-Naples
In 2005, artist Steve Tobin created a ten-foot-tall bronze sculpture of a sycamore tree’s root structure for Trinity Episcopal Church on Wall Street. The sycamore in question is known as “the tree that saved St. Paul’s Chapel,” because it took the brunt of damage from debris falling from the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, and the chapel remained relatively unscathed. (A maquette is a model of the final sculpture.)
“Capriccio” 1986, bronze by Milton Hebald,
on loan from the Baker Museum, Artis Naples
This life-sized lawnmower contains 13,704 LEGO pieces and took 200 hours to design and build. It's designed as a "photo op" where visitors can walk up and grab the handle to take a photo.
Bison and Calf
The life-sized Bison with a cowbird on its back is nearly 7 feet long and contains 45,143 LEGO pieces. It was built together with Baby Bison. The entire sculpture took 700 hours to build with a team of 6 model builders over the course of 6 weeks. Because this sculpture is installed outdoors, it needs to withstand the elements and overly curious visitors. Kenney’s team designed a steel skeleton to reinforce the structure which can additionally be bolted to the ground.
This life-sized bison calf is nearly 4 feet long and contains 16,229 LEGO pieces. It was built together with Mama Bison. Baby was built over the course of 140 hours. A steel armature helps keep the sculpture secured to the ground.
This is a sculpture of an acorn as it begins its life as an oak tree, with leaves and shoots unfurling and reaching for the sun. It's over 5 feet tall and was built with 15,581 pieces. The sculpture took over 200 hours to design and build. LEGO sculptures are very difficult when they are either thin or horizontal, and the leaves in this sculpture are thin AND horizontal!
This giant Ruby-Throated Hummingbird hovers 8 feet in the air as it feeds out of giant flowers. The sculpture took over 550 hours to design and build: that is, over 4 weeks to design and 5 weeks to build with 31,565 LEGO pieces. Kenney describes the process:
“The sculpture is so tall that we had to stand on stepladders to build it! One day while we were up on top of ladders building the wings, one of my assistants walked by and laughed, "Wow, it's getting so tall! Any taller and it won't fit out the door!" Shocked, we stopped and measured… she was right! The hummingbird wings are so tall and so wide that they would not fit through a standard door. So we redesigned the wings so they could be removed on steel pins and re-inserted after going through a doorway.” Problem solved. I thought this sculpture was fascinating because the hummingbird seems to be hanging in mid-air without a visible means of support.
The sculpture is 7 feet tall and was built with 41,242 LEGO pieces. This elegant piece was designed and built the way a real rose is built... every petal is there, unfurling out from the rose bud. This sculpture was so tall that the builders had to put tables on top of tables (and then step stools on top of that) in order to be high up enough to finish the uppermost layers. The stem is reinforced with a steel core so that this top-heavy sculpture can withstand high winds.
Common Green Darter Dragonfly
This larger-than-life dragonfly has a 4-foot wingspan, contains 6,535 LEGO pieces and took 4 weeks to design, build, and glue. A steel frame elevates it above the marshland where it hovers along like a real dragonfly.
For more information on Sean Kenney and LEGO-building, go to: www.seankenney.com