Once you walk into an art gallery, anything goes. Don’t ever doubt that. I headed to Gallery 1988 East on Melrose for the Colorful Constructs show. I found myself looking at Nicole Gustafsson’s paintings of Legos on wood panels. I dismissively scrawled “Lego Porn” into the little black notebook where I scrawl things, dismissively.
Does it really count as art if you paint pictures of Legos? Why would you paint a picture of Legos in the first place? Wouldn’t it make more sense to build something novel and elaborate out of Legos and have that be your artwork?
And yet, the incongruous colors that look terrible and messy when you’re cobbling your own Lego things together look poignant and beautiful, somehow, against the dusky tones of the ground in this piece, with the beauty underscored by shadows that feel long and imply a setting sun.
You know what that means, right? Sunsets are when you prepare to put all the hopes and victories and hustle and bustle of the day behind you. Closing a curtain on it.
This one looks like a precious stone. Why? Legos are plastic, and plastic is everywhere. I heard that they’ve even stopped making metal toys for kids. Metal toys are awesome. Metal toys don’t fool around. Metal toys mean business! But I digress; everything is plastic now.
Did you ever feel, when you spilled your Legos all out onto your bedroom door, that you had a stash of valuable treasure at your fingertips? I certainly didn’t. And yet, there was almost always that moment when only one brick would fit right on that one spot on the thing you’re building. And you’re all out of bricks, except wait – you can’t be all out of them, you just saw a couple. And you sift through your pile, sifting and sifting and sifting, scattering all the unimportant little nuggets of plastic out of the way, and then you find the brick you need. Didn’t it look exactly like this when you held it up to the light?
That sense of accomplishment hardly comes so easily these days. For most of us, Legos are in the past. They were fun, in a meaningful way. And that never really changed. But we did. We grew up, stopped building shit with them, and started to construct lives instead of toys. Nicole Gustafsson’s creations, with their colors and shadows and sunlight, reminded me of one small part of my life, ages ago, where I might have learned how much fun it was to build shit in the first place. That’s just the way it goes. Sometimes you made stuff out of Legos. But sometimes, Legos made stuff out of you.
Nicole Gustaffson is an artist and illustrator who lives in the Pacific Northwest and, as far as I can tell, shows her artwork all over the place.