Art Under the Microscope

British micro-sculptor Willard Wigan’s work is so small that each piece is installed in its own enclosed mount, with high-intensity lighting and a built-in binocular microscope. Look through the microscope, and iconic forms and images, many of them from pop culture, appear.

Although it is interesting to see what images Wigan chooses–Nefertiti, Tinkerbell, Puff Daddy, Homer Simpson–the greater interest lies in the marvel of their existence, in three dimensions, at this tiny size. The artist began making very small things, such as houses and clothes for ants, when he was 5 years old, and has taken his pieces orders of magnitude smaller in the subsequent decades. Entirely self-taught, he now works in materials from plastic to gold under very high magnification. With microscopic tools of his own making, he carves and paints figures that fit easily on the head of a pin or in a needle’s eye. He must take the focused concentration of the craftsperson to extremes: At this scale, the pulse in his fingertips acts like a jackhammer.

One of his most successful pieces conceptually is Barack Obama and Family, depicting the victorious appearance of the president, the first lady, and their daughters on election night 2008.

–Kate Dobbs Ariail, excerpted fromAmerican Craft(Feb.-March 2010); www.american craftmag.org

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