THE LOOP — When Matthew Haussler was toiling away as a Chicago bank teller a few years ago, he spent his break times doodling mazes.
It was "just a way to preoccupy my brain with something else, like a game. They're medatative," he said.
By 2010, he was spending more time at home trying to combine art and mazes, and in the summer of 2013, with just a few high school art classes under his belt, he gave up on the bank entirely and turned maze-making into a full-time job.
Soon came two published maze books, and by last year, he had a new goal: creating the world's longest maze. He became friends with the current Guinness World Record holder, a Pittsburgh artist, and, in a friendly competition, promised he'd break the record.
"I thought, 'How big can I do this? Can I do a billboard? Can I do a building?'"
On Sunday, in an unveiling at Block 37, Haussler displayed the fruits of his labor: a 74-foot-long handdrawn maze of Chicago, a twisting path through iconic buildings, trees, parks and streets.
Haussler, a Pilsen resident, first put pen to paper in June of 2014. He says there was no pressure, because he wasn't working for his book publisher.
"It was way more freeing. I could experiment and have fun"
He decided on the Chicago skyline, as a tribute to a city that he says helped him out during the difficult days of a divorce. And he worked in conjuction with a website devoted to charity and acts of kindness, Impossible.com. There are 10 different acts of kindness and charity woven into the maze, and its title is "Impossible".
"Failure would have been a little embarrasing," Haussler laughs. "Right around 20 feet is when I was like, 'Man, this is gonna take awhile!'" Some days he would struggle; others, the ink flowed fast.
But in the end, "It was more calming than stressful".
About a week ago, eight months from the day he started, and at 74 feet, as long as a semi-truck, he wrote the word "finish" at the end of the maze.
On Sunday, Haussler's 30th birthday, he unveiled the maze at Block 37, for just a few hours. It was the first time Haussler had seen the entire finished project; while drawing, he only had room to forge ahead while rolling up what was completed.
At the unveiling, spectators marvelled at the work.
A friend of Haussler's, Vinny Rizzo said maze-as-art was never really "a thing." Until, that is, Haussler developed it.
"Really unbelievable," Rizzo said.
Another friend, Dan Green, joked, "I'll say he's a little more crazy than a genius. It would take me longer [to figure out the maze] than it took for him to make this thing."
And, in fact, Haussler says someone must figure out the maze, in order for it to qualify as a Guinness World Record. Haussler will post the entire maze on his website while he searches for a Chicago art gallery that will display the entire thing.
Haussler laughs, "It won't do much good rolled up in my closet".
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