SAN ANTONIO – The families of the 21 victims from the massacre at Robb Elementary in Uvalde were all gifted portraits of their loved ones who were killed.
The hand-drawn digital Lego portraits were created by an artist who uses Legos as his main medium.
World famous artist Sean Kenney lives in Amsterdam, but has lived most of his life in New York. At one time, he used to live in Austin.
He said he never expected the portraits to get to the families of the victims. It was all by chance, after the portraits he made went viral on social media.
He said the families of the victims began to contact him, asking if they could buy them.
Kenney said he would never let them pay him, which is why he coordinated with friends and family in Texas to get them printed on canvas and delivered to the families.
He said he started to create them as an act of catharsis.
“I was, of course, incredibly sad,” Kenney said. “I was frustrated. I was upset. I was, I felt hopeless. And I don’t know, I had all these sort of things in my brain that I couldn’t get out with words. And so as an artist, you know, when you have no words, you just make things. And so that’s what I do. And so to express myself, I make things.”
He believes it was important for him to try to show the vibrancy and joy in each child’s smile, to capture the glint in their eyes.
Each portrait is intentionally very boldly colored and as bright and joyful as possible, so as to try to counteract the horrific truth as to why he even had to create them.
“It takes about two or three hours to draw one portrait,” Kenney said. “And I really spend a lot of time trying to kind of put that spark into them, and, you know, show their energy, show their spirit. It was just gut-wrenching and heartbreaking to have to stare into the eyes of each one of these children for two or three hours. I mean, I literally cried every time with every portrait because, you know, I was looking at the glint in an eye that that isn’t going to be there anymore.”
The portraits are not physically built out of Legos... yet. They are digitally hand crafted and took a week to create all of them. He said he is not sure if he will build the portraits with Legos. If he did, it would take a quarter million Lego bricks and about six months to build all 21 of them.
If he does eventually build them with Legos, he said he wants to be sensitive to the nature of what this is all about.
“If an event or an exhibit can help bring peace and healing to the families and the community, or help bring awareness to the problems we’re facing with guns in America, then I would absolutely do something like that,” Kenney said. “But he says right now he knows the families are still very much hurting and wants to give them time and space.”
Most importantly, he hopes the art can help the community of Uvalde heal.
“I hope by looking at these portraits, people can really see these kids for who they were, exciting and lovable people,” Kenney said. “It’s easy when we get caught up in the national conversation about all this to sort of, you know, turn these things into numbers and statistics. And these were real lives. And I hope that by looking at these really big, bold portraits of these children, you can really see them through the, you know, the vibrant kids that they were.”