Nathan Sawaya is living the dream.
The visionary artist, who is known for building intricate and complicated 3D pieces out of — you guessed it — Legos, has built everything from a large scale T-Rex to Oscar statues (you might remember those from the 2015 Academy Awards). But to celebrate DC Comics’ 80-year history, Sawaya has taken his skills to another level by creating multiple pop culture pieces: including a life-sized Batmobile.
This is a dream project,” Sawaya told EW in an exclusive chat. “This is the Batmobile! What other vehicle is so iconic?”
The eighteen-foot long piece, which took over two months complete, is part of the artist’s latest exhibition, “The Art of Brick: DC Comics.” The sculpture will make its debut in Sydney at Australia’s Powerhouse Museum this November.
“For the Batmobile in particular, I collaborated with [DC co-publisher] Jim Lee, who was so gracious to actually draw live at a panel at Comic Con for a design of a new Batmobile while we were taking suggestions from the audience,” Sawaya explained. “So as that was how this all started. I used his drawing as a bit of a blueprint to come up with the actual Lego structure and then created this Batmobile brick by brick.”
When asked if this is the biggest project he’s taken on so far, Sawaya laughs. “I’ve made a bit of a career taking daunting projects out of Lego,” he admits. “I’ve done things like a dinosaur skeleton and stuff like that. But for me, this was a really exciting opportunity because it was taking this iconic vehicle and getting to interpret it myself. From a technical aspect and engineering aspect, sure, there were some daunting moments…the great thing about the project was Jim [Lee] is a very big car guy. He really knows cars and I really know Lego, and I thought that was a really good mix.” And his love for superheroes and comics aside, Sawaya takes his inspiration from everywhere.
“Sometimes it’s as simple as walking around the city and seeing something, or sometimes, fortunately I have multiple exhibitions, which means I do get to travel a bit,” he says. “And using that travel, I get to experience different cultures, different people. I actually carry a little sketchpad with me wherever I go, so I can jot down ideas and so I can explore those ideas and pull on my own emotions and own journeys for inspiration.”
While Sawaya has worked on numerous projects rooted in pop culture, he details this one as somewhat of a different experience. “In this case, I’m taking very well known characters or established characters and getting to reinterpret it myself. It’s an odd thing, in a way, because they know these characters very well,” the artist says. “I found that as a good challenge though, to put my own spin on the characters. This whole exhibition is really a chance to take a look at good and evil, heroes and villains, and really explore their themes artistically.”
So, is Batman his favorite DC character? “Batman is one of the iconic characters, of course, he’s one of my favorites,” Sawaya reveals. “If I had to pick someone else, it’s probably someone like Bunker — which is not a well known character, but someone who can use his mind to manipulate little plastic bricks. And I think that kind of in a way is similar to what I do.”