Brick by Brick
LEGO artist turns toys into art
By Jessica Laskey
A poster of Wonder Woman hangs on the wall next to a colorful lamp. But look closer—these aren’t ordinary objects. They’re composed of thousands of tiny LEGO bricks and they’re the masterwork of Sacramento native David Truman Tracy.
“I couldn’t tell you how many times I built LEGO sets as a kid,” says Tracy, whose work is on display at Archival Gallery this month in “Sacramento Superheroes,” alongside work by the late Mel Ramos, Carrie Cottini, Robert Bowen, Corey Okada and GB Hettrick.
“My biggest frustration was always that once I had finished a model of, say, a Star Wars X Wing, what was I going to do with it? I would put it on the mantle for an hour and then destroy it. With a LEGO lamp, it’s a cool, functional thing that you can display. It has entertainment value and use value.”
Tracy returned to his childhood love of LEGO as a freshman studying architecture at UCLA after his mom showed him photos of LEGO furniture in an issue of Architectural Digest. Intrigued, he visited a LEGO store to see what was new and was delighted to find clear bricks—which immediately made him brainstorm ways to play with light. A lamp seemed the most “direct and relatable way” to experiment. Soon after, his first LEGO lamp was born.
“I wanted to do something that wasn’t too ‘out there,’” says Tracy, who has since exhibited his LEGO lamps, furniture and sculptures at Google’s San Francisco offices, the Forest Lawn Museum in Glendale and Sacramento’s Lumens Light and Living.
“LEGO is already pretty out there. So many of my pieces are pretty simple concepts. The nature of the material is unexpected, so I try to simplify. If it gets too complicated, you’re layering crazy on top of crazy. Crazy squared doesn’t work that well.”
The 29-year-old seems to have found the sweet spot between crazy and cool, with commissions taking off after exhibiting at Lumens and having a lamp accepted into the 2010 KVIE Art Auction. He now has an agent in Florida and his artwork is owned by the Warner Bros. offices (which produced “The LEGO Movie”) in Los Angeles, tech companies, interior designers and collectors across the country.
Though Tracy didn’t pursue art full-time after graduation—he worked in investment banking and corporate finance for Universal and he’s now pursuing an MBA at the University of Chicago—he still found time to spread his love of LEGO through teaching. He worked with an after-school program located near a LEGO factory in Nyíregyháza, Hungary, where he taught students how to build his now-iconic lamp that was being displayed at the country’s national museum.
While Tracy loved teaching, his time in Hungary led to an even more incredible opportunity—collaborating with Hungary-based Wonder Woman illustrator Judit Tondora. Tracy suggested a professional collaboration and the results will be on display at Archival. Replicas of Tondora’s illustrations done entirely in LEGO bricks depicting Wonder Woman’s character evolution from the 1940s through the ‘70s, ‘90s and 2010s.
“We didn’t want to just do standard illustrations or a ton of pieces,” Tracy says. “We settled on chronicling the development of the character since its inception. It’s an interesting mash-up.”
When Tracy isn’t studying, traveling, building or exhibiting, he’s working on his newest project, a DIY kit of his colorful ball lamp that will be sold online to LEGO enthusiasts and artists alike who have taken a shining to Tracy’s reimagining of every kid’s favorite building material—no disassembly required.
Jessica Laskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.