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The Tiny World of Willard Wigan

I would ask you whether you had ever seen any of Willard Wigan’s art, but chances are, you haven’t and couldn’t.

Willard Wigan is a micro sculptor, and his pieces are so small, they can’t be seen with the naked eye. Many of them are only three times the size of a single blood cell. Typically, they sit on the head of a nail, or in the eye of a needle. “I could probably go down to, say, five microns, the tip of a human hair,” Wigan said in a recent interview with CBS.

Wigan’s inspiration was born from a childhood of adversity. He had dyslexia as a schoolboy in England, and an abusive schoolteacher once said to him, “You are an exhibition of failure, and all the children in the school need to know about you, because this is what happens if you don’t listen to me, children.”

Wigan said, “That made me feel small.” Such belittling had a huge impact on Wigan, and his mother noticed. She told her son, “You are now going to continue to make small things… If you keep making small things, your name will get bigger!”

Now Wigan spends his days bent painstakingly over a microscope, crafting his masterpieces. He must make his own tools (e.g. the single hair of a fly as a brush) and use the most precise hand/eye coordination. He must put himself into a meditative state of mind, where he is able to control the most basic of movements. He must be aware of every twitch, every heartbeat, and every breath.

He learned the hard way while working on a sculpture of the Mad Hatter’s tea party from Alice in Wonderland. Wigan reflected, “I’m lifting her [Alice] with the eyelash to put her underneath the table… and as I’m poking her—and I’m doing this microscopically—and at the same time, I’m going [makes deep breathing noise], I lift her out again, and then… And then ugh, gone!” Wigan inhaled her.

Alice went down the rabbit hole.

Despite its size, Wigan’s work draws a lot of attention. One of his most famous creations is of Charlie Chaplin dancing on the tip of an eyelash. “That one brings a lot of attention, because people see it and they think, ‘An eyelash? Is that really an eyelash? Is that really there?’”

Many of Wigan’s pieces are of well-known events or people: the last supper, the Obama family, the Incredible Hulk, Humpty Dumpty, and seven-foot one-inch tall Shaquille O’Neil. “Put a guy like me into a little pin? That’s crazy!” said O’Neil after viewing his sculpture through a microscope. “Took him seven weeks? Probably take me 17 years!”

Wigan believes in the sayings “Less is more,” and “The little things mean a lot.” “And my work, it means a hell of a lot to me, and a hell of a lot to everybody that sees it,” declared Wigan.

Willard Wigan’s work will be on display at the Flag Art Foundation in New York until May 27th.