Brian Korte’s translucent Lego mosaic. Jay Paul photo
The selectors said: His creations of portraits from Lego pieces are in many collections around the country and abroad. He is an arts educator, traveling to schools and teaching children about creativity and passion.
Brian Korte's day job as an information technology specialist caused him not to want to get near a computer screen at home. So for fun, he returned to a hobby of his youth, cross-stitch. Then the 2004 marriage of friends inspired him to think of Lego blocks as pixels, as in a digital image, to make their portrait. Soon after he formed Brickworkz, a custom Lego mosaic company.
Korte grew up in Vienna, Va., where his father, Ed, was a painter and woodworker, and an uncle, Tom, worked with wood, too. He started studying graphic design at Radford University but switched to advertising because that department's computers were better suited for digital representations.
"When I first started designing on computers in 1989," Korte says, "I would always zoom way in and work pixel by pixel; when you zoomed out, the detail was there. I've always been meticulous like that."
With mosaics that can contain thousands upon thousands of pieces, an enjoyment of small details is fortunate. Korte acknowledges that his thumbs get battered. Many of the blocks must be broken for proper arrangement.
For the Toy and Plastic Brick Museum of Bellaire, Ohio, Korte created a Lego truck scene 22-1/2 feet high by 44-1/2 feet long, composed of 1.2 million bricks.
A crew of four worked every day for three months, and in the final weekend a team of 10 completed the piece. The feat earned Korte a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.
He buys his bricks wholesale from European dealers, though he's not quite sure how they get them. Lego doesn't seem to mind its role in his craft: Their Danish headquarters directed an Australian querying about art made from Legos to Korte. Time-elapse videos of his constructions are on YouTube.
Korte's main work is portraits for anniversaries, weddings and other commemorative occasions. He's had to learn the mysteries of pallets and shipping and customs forms. For the purpose of overseas transport, the mosaic components are described as "plastic toy on wood."
A visit to the Vatican and its stained-glass windows inspired Korte to consider installing a mosaic atop a light box. The blocks are transparent and light would pass through the base plates. "I've never seen anybody do that," he says, well on his way to becoming the Louis Comfort Tiffany of Legos.