Dr. Aaron Liepman, an EMU Biology professor, has created over two dozen custom LEGO mosaics over the past nine years outside of his teaching career.
Dr. Liepman, who is known as Brick Maniac in his other passion, creates custom LEGO mosaics by hand. The name Brick Maniac is a nod to an 80s LEGO commercial, without interfering with the intellectual property of the LEGO company.
One of his many pieces is currently mounted in the Downtown Ann Arbor Library celebrating MLK Day and Black History Month. The piece is a depiction of a famous photo by Steve Schapiro of the march for voting rights with Ralph Abernathy, James Forman, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rev. Jesse Douglas, and John Lewis leading the march arm in arm.
This piece is made using over 16,000 hand painted LEGO bricks and took over three months of freetime to create, after starting the piece in fall of 2022. The mosaic, which is nearly eight feet wide and over three feet tall, currently hangs inside the first floor event space in the library.
Liepman has another MLK-themed piece called "Revolutionary,” which he created in 2021, that sparked the relationship between the library. Ann Arbor Library holds an annual all ages LEGO building contest every August. Despite his piece not fitting the guidelines of the contest, he was told to bring in the piece anyways to show.
The organizers of the event loved Dr. Liepman's piece and asked if they could display it for MLK day and Black History Month. The communications between him and the library took a while, so "Revolutionary’" was sent to California to be displayed. That's when he began the piece "Selma to Montgomery,“ and showed that one to the library.
“I found this image and loved it so I went for it,” Dr. Liepman said. “When they contacted me about revolutionary I said ‘revolutionary’ is gone but I worked on another one how bout that.”
"Selma to Montgomery” was a challenge for him. While the idea and creation of the bricks wasn't hard, the execution was hard with the sheer size of the piece.
“If I see an image that I want to spend more time with, that can be really good inspiration for me,” Dr. Liepman said.
Liepman started this passion later in life as he discovered a LEGO mosaic when visiting the Chicago LEGO store in his late 30s. There isn't a direct correlation between his career and mosaics. It's a passion he does outside of work that he believes creates a balance in his life.
“All of this is a work in progress,” Dr. Liepman said. “My scientific mindset helps me in this sort of art, I keep good notes, I ask questions, and do experiments with my art in the same way I do in my lab.”
He keeps improving his craft over the years, first beginning with spray painting his individual bricks to now mixing custom formulations of artist grade acrylics himself. He keeps improving his craft to figure out things that work and don't work, with the goal of always trying to improve.
“Perfect is a pretty high standard, and I’m not there yet,” Dr. Liepman said. “Every different piece I create teaches me something.”
Every piece to him is imperfect, but he keeps going and striving for improvement with every new piece.
“Learning by doing can be a good way to learn,” he said. “If you're interested in something why not try it and see what happens, approach it as an experiment.”
His pieces reside all over the country from his Michelle Obama portrait being displayed in the family health center in Kalamazoo, his Jackie Robinson piece in Memphis, Tennessee, his unicorn piece up north, and a piece in his hometown library of Saline. You can find images and information about his different pieces on his website brickmaniac.com.
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