Lego artists out to block the world at Little Rock event

Marilyn Monroe, Space Station among creations

Attendees of the BrickUniverse Lego fan convention check out Michelle Mahaffey’s Friendsville on display Saturday at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock. More photos at (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)

What do Batman, Taylor Swift and Snoopy have in common?

On any other day, not much.

However, on Saturday all three could be found at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock displayed in all of their Lego glory.

Yes, Legos.

The three icons were some of the many depicted in various forms at "Brick Universe," a national touring event that brings together Lego builders, artists and fans of all ages.

One could spend the whole visit in a corner the room crafting to heart's content in the "Building Zone."

Or join the constant stream of people lined up to browse and buy Lego sets and figures at multiple merchants located along the left wall at the room's entrance.

That's where 8-year-old Hilt Boling and his parents, Kent and Rachel, were as they checked out with a purchase.

The trip to "Brick Universe" was a Christmas gift for Hilt, who wore a hat that had multiple Lego minifigures on its bill, including Batman.

Hilt's gifts included "something to read, something to wear and something to do," said Rachel. "This was our 'something to do.'"

Hilt's most recent Lego "build" was a 2,316-piece replica of Vincent van Gogh's "Starry Night," which he said "took me a week to build."

There was plenty of art to be found in the exhibition room.

One exhibit area featured numerous Lego-based mosaic portraits, including Batman, Venom and a recreation of Marilyn Monroe that almost looked ripped from a photograph.

These works were created by Ethan Teeters.

Creating under the artist name of "myst33ry" [his family calls him "E," so it's a play on words for "Mr. E"], Teeters, 21, is an artist from Orlando. He can be found at "Brick Universe" events when not working his full-time job at Whole Foods.

Teeters has been showing off his work at shows since 2015, but he's "been building ever since I [could] pick up the pieces. Grown up with Lego, kind of fell in and out and then got back in and it's led me to do this."

He got into professional Lego art after "being inspired by the different people that I've seen online and the people that were already doing this a long time ago."

For Teeters, it was a "hobby I couldn't let go of."

Right across from Teeters' display area was the booth that housed the weekend's winner for "Best Mosaic."

This piece looks different depending on where one is standing, a style called lenticular mosaic.

If approaching from the right, it looks like the logo for Marvel's S.H.I.E.L.D organization. But as one moves to the left, it transitions into the octopus logo for S.H.I.E.L.D's evil rival, Hydra.

The piece, which took 16,000 pieces and 75 hours to make, was made by Richard and Ashley Glatter of Mayflower.

"It's the same type of technology that is used in the hologram paper things that you see," Richard said. "It's the same idea, just I'm on a lot bigger scale because I'm using Lego pieces. ... There is a math formula in order to make [it] look right. ... I use computer software and basically instead of designing one mosaic at once, I'm designing two different mosaics that I'm putting on the same build."

The Glatters own, which is devoted to making and selling custom Lego bricks and minifigs.

The Glatters served a constant stream of customers throughout the morning.

"My wife and I, we've been fans of Lego since we were kids," Richard said. "We got into it again as adults in 2012. And we just kind of went all in."

If anyone else on the convention floor best represented going "all in," it was Lia Chan.

It was hard to miss her creations.

Upon entering the room where "Brick Universe" was located, visitors were greeted by Chan's "Air & Space" exhibit.

On multiple tables were Lego builds of various spacecraft, including the International Space Station, a Space Shuttle on its launch pad and a Saturn V rocket in the process of blasting off.

A native of the Dallas area, Chan has been building professionally for roughly six years, but she's "been playing with Legos since I was 5."

Chan became enraptured in her subject as a junior high student in the 1980s, learning about it in her science and math classes. Around this time Christa McAuliffe, a school teacher, was recruited for the ill-fated Challenger mission in 1986.

"That's when I really got into space exploration," Chan said.

Some of Chan's work is currently on display at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.

When projects like Chan's Space Shuttle consist of 18,000 pieces (23,000-plus in "launch mode"), how does she transport them from place to place?

She picks up a small stack of photos covered in plastic off her display table.

The photos document the deconstruction process, what carry bin each section goes in and how she places the containers in the back of her car.

"I do travel by car, so everything has to fit into the car," Chan said. "That's part of the design process, is each of them has to fit. ... I have a little Honda, but they all fit into my car."

Near the back of the room was an exhibit documenting the history of Lego sets, from the "Classic" space set that was put out from 1978 to 1988, to a similar set that was produced to coincide with the release of "The Lego Movie" in 2014.

At one point, a father pointed out a set to his son. It was called "Futuron," and was produced from 1987-1990.

"This is what they had coming out when I was your age," Michael Reece told his 8-year-old son, Mace.

"[Mace is] really passionate about [Legos]," Michael said. "[I saw an] advertisement on Facebook, and I knew he loved it. So I wanted to bring him."

Building Legos together is one of the bonding activities for the duo from Vilonia. One project they've completed was a Lego version of a Jeep Rubicon.

Their hobby started out with Michael helping Mace put sets together.

"I was living my second childhood," Michael said.

"I didn't do them when I was a kid. And he was into them. So I pulled them out and we would go through every direction. But now he gets in there and he does it by himself. So he's graduated."

They made the roughly 35-minute trip to Little Rock as a show of appreciation for artists like Chan and Teeters.

"The main reason why we're here is because it's very inspiring to see the work and time that was put into all these things," said Michael.

  photo  Bonnie McCauley, 8, looks at minifigures for sale while dressed in her Lego Ninjago costume Saturday at the BrickUniverse Lego fan convention in the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock. More photos at (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)

 Gallery: BrickUniverse Lego fan convention