Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Art with Lego Bricks at the Naples Botanical Garden

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.


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

American Bumblebee 

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.

American Bumblebee

American Bumblebee


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. 



This giant sculpture of a fox is nearly 6 feet long and contains 17,547 LEGO pieces. He took over 200 hours to design and build. He is about to pounce on the poor little rabbit. 


This giant rabbit is nearly 2 feet long and contains 1,361 LEGO pieces. He was built together with a fox, cunningly stalking the poor little fellow. The sculpture took over 20 hours to design, build, and glue to a steel base in order to fasten the sculpture to the ground onsite.


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

Jumping Koi

This Koi fish, installed in a pond, is built out of 1,937 LEGO bricks.

Jumping Koi

“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

“Capriccio” means lively music.


Lawn Mower

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. 


Bison Calf

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.

Germinating Acorn

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!

Germinating Acorn


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:

Friday, December 19, 2014

Botanical Gardens at Sanibel Moorings

Sanibel Moorings Resort faces the Gulf of Mexico on Sanibel Island. On December 15, 2014, the Estero Island Garden Club visited the Botanical Gardens, which are woven all around the pathways and buildings of the beach-side resort. We saw hundreds of native plants and non-invasive tropical species, including bromeliads, cacti, hibiscus, orchids, palms, fruits, and cycads spread out over six acres. The resident gardener, Anita Force Marshall, welcomed us and gave us a tour of the grounds and described her philosophy of  wildlife gardening, which she referred to as “organized chaos.” Gardens planted for the benefit of wildlife always include host plants as food sources, do not use poisonous chemicals for pest control, and predominantly feature native  species. The plantings in a wildlife garden will also require less maintenance and have more resilience than a garden less in harmony with nature. 

Pergola/bench with Diane and Katie 
This is the starting point of the garden tour.

Becky with blue birdbath surrounded by purple gerber daisies  

Garden Club members at the beginning of the tour

Blooms of a Pink Tassel Tree

The pink tassel tree 

Look closely at the hundreds of “tassels” which have not yet bloomed. The tree blooms seasonally for a month and a half, starting around December 15. Each bloom lasts about a week. This tree must be a magnificent sight when it is in full bloom.

The common and botanical names of the tree

Aloe and yucca grouping

Distinctive fountain, tree and plantings

Master gardener Anita Force Marshall

The group standing under a Screw Pine tree

The very old Screw Pine tree

The group admiring a Hong Kong orchid tree

The Hong Kong Orchid tree

Close-up of a Hong Kong tree orchid

An “island” consisting of a number of different plants. 
We are now on the beach-front side of the resort. 

In the “island,” you can see prickly pear cactus, beach daisies, and canna lilies. Indian Hawthorn are behind the beach daisies.

Close-up of the canna lily

Close-up of the periwinkles in the “island”

An Audrette Agave and Sea Lavender

The Sea Lavender from the side 

The Sea Lavender was new to most of us, but we all found it to be a very attractive bush.

Giant Crinum Lily

Macho ferns

These antique pioneer roses bloom year round.

Roses and ferns

Marianne and a hibiscus

A Mahogany tree across the street 

The buildings across East Gulf Drive are on a canal with boat docks.

Anita and fountain--all with bowls to hold water for birds

A Carambola (Star fruit) tree

Anita gave each of us a very large and perfect-looking carambola from this tree.

Garden club members and Sanibel Moorings sign

Carol, Diane and Katie in front of Cip’s Place Restaurant

Members and guests at our lunch table

A mural painted by Tim Macko in honor of famous Sanibel locals and visitors to Sanibel

Ruth Hunter, front and center, was an actress who played Daisey Mae in “Tobacco Road’ on Broadway.

The restaurant has a flyer that identifies each of the 60 faces in the mural. Among them are such personalities as Porter Goss, former Mayor of Sanibel and CIA Director, Willard Scott, weatherman, J.N.  “Ding” Darling, Ann Morrow Lindberg, Thomas Edison, Ponce de Leon, Teddy Roosevelt, Maybelle Stamper, modernist painter and recluse, and Bob Rauschenberg.