The Art of the Brick: A LEGO Tribute to Frida Kahlo

Catherine A. Jones
 | February 23, 2024

For over a decade, “The Art of the Brick” exhibit has wowed thousands with its awe-inspiring displays of museum-quality art, crafted entirely from LEGO bricks.

And, right now, a piece inspired by renowned Mexican artist, and feminist icon, Frida Kahlo, is included in the exhibit. In a first, “The Art of the Brick” Artist Nathan Sawaya captures the essence and complexity of Kahlo with only LEGO bricks as his medium.

Armed with hundreds of LEGO bricks, Sawaya, a former New York City lawyer, reimagines one of Kahlo’s iconic self-portraits, simply titled “The Frame,” in stunning 3-D. 

“THE ART OF THE BRICK takes LEGO somewhere you wouldn’t expect and shows you things you have never seen before,” Sawaya says. “The goal with this collection of art is to demonstrate the potential of imagination and the power of creativity.” 

For those lucky enough to see it in person, the LEGO tribute to Kahlo converges two artistic souls — one from the past, the other from the present.

And, based on media reports and feedback on social media, it’s an amazing sight to see.

Frida Kahlo’s LEGO Transformation

The “The Art of the Brick,” a captivating exhibition of intriguing works of art made exclusively from one of the most recognizable toys in the world, the LEGO brick, opened at The Franklin Institute, in Philadelphia, PA, this month.

“The first two rooms of ‘The Art of the Brick’ are dedicated to recreations of artistic masterpieces,” the outlet Philly Voice explains. “Famous paintings like ‘Starry Night’ and ‘Mona Lisa’ line the walls, with a little more texture than their oil-based inspirations. Sawaya also plays with scale and dimension, transforming ‘Whistler’s Mother,’ ‘American Gothic’ and Frida Kahlo’s ‘The Frame’ into 3D sculptures.” 

In his recreation of “The Frame,” Sawaya pays meticulous attention to detail, capturing Kahlo’s expression, the intensity of her eyes, and the delicate intertwining of flora and fauna, all with LEGO bricks.

From the vibrant flowers crowning Kahlo’s head to the intricate patterns on her clothing, the LEGO version mirrors the original, albeit with a playful twist.

And the fans love it.

Before the current exhibit, Sawaya posted a picture of his LEGO creation of Kahlo’s portrait for his 79,000+ followers on his Instagram page. Based on their feedback, he captured her piece perfectly. 

“Wow! This is brilliant! 💛💛💛”@arthistoryinlego commented. 

@serious_creative wrote: “Pretty sure she’d dig that a lot…”

“This is perfect! You captured her beautifully! ❤️” @brickswhynot commented, as well.

Kahlo’s Original: “The Frame”

In 1938, Frida Kahlo embarked on her journey to create “The Frame.” 

Art historians say her motivation for creating “The Frame” was deeply personal. She sought to explore her multifaceted identity, both as an artist and as a woman. Kahlo grappled with physical and emotional pain throughout her life, and this self-portrait literally was  a mirror reflecting her struggles.

“The Frame” is a departure from Kahlo’s usual self-portraits. Here, she experiments with mixed media, blending traditional painting techniques with unconventional materials. 

“Frida Kahlo bought this reverse glass painting from a market in Oaxaca, Mexico,” Google Arts & Culture explains. “She then placed a self-portrait, which was painted on a sheet of aluminum, into this reverse-painted glass frame that was originally intended to house a mirror, photograph, or religious image.”

The central figure — Kahlo herself — gazes directly at the viewer, her expression solemn and introspective.

“It is the reverse glass painting that really frames her face here, hence the title of ‘The Frame,’” Google Arts & Culture writes.

In 1939, the Louvre acquired “The Frame,” marking a historic moment. It became the first work by a 20th-century Mexican artist to grace the hallowed halls of an internationally renowned museum. Despite this achievement, Kahlo remained overshadowed by her husband, the muralist Diego Rivera, whom she married in 1929.

To see “The Frame” in the “Art of the Brick,” find out more online now.

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