Thursday, October 1, 2009

Art Attack

Micro Artist Carves His Way to Larger Than Life Size Existence

Alice in wonderland can be seen on a big screen in Tim Burton’s upcoming film rendition of Lewis Carroll’s classic story in early 2010. If you’d like to see the smallest version of Alice and the other famed characters that accompany her, look no further than a microscope focused on the work of 52 year old Willard Wigan. In his lifetime this native of England has gone from a dyslexic child, to being dismissed by his peers, to finally being renowned as our planet's leading micro sculptor.
The long path to this odd career choice began when Wigan was only 5 years old making apartments for ants because he “thought they needed some place to live.” He even made them shoes and hats to go along with their homes. The teachers that made the future millionaire feel small in the classroom were made into small works of art at his hand. His mother would encourage him to attempt even smaller feats as his talent progressed. Today Willard’s artwork is tiny enough to fit on the head of a pin or the eye of a needle. He was recently featured in the Wall Street Journal where writer Gautam Naik describes the size of Wigan’s Alice sculpture as one-third the size of the periods that appear in the article. In fact some of his more recent collections can only be seen when magnified 500 times. On the Tonight Show with Jay Leno a few months back the nanotechnologist recalled an amusing incident where he was sculpting and his cell phone went off. The result was that he inhaled Alice.
Mr. Wigan’s creative process is very complex. Not only must he be very delicate with such tiny productions, but he must slow his breathing and carve around his own heartbeats. He has stayed still for extreme lengths of time in the name of art (up to 22 hours) and has even passed out while working. His tools always include a scalpel and a microscope, and the paint strokes are often done with the hair of a fly. The tiny objects are placed into their setting using a human eyelash. These works have also included raw materials such as gold and carpet fibers. The substances he cuts the designs into range from rice to a grain of sand.
Having completed about 160 miniature masterpieces (an amazing number considering it can take up to 3 months per piece) and already having achieved national fame in the U.K., the one-time underdog is looking to increase his notoriety in the States. His client list includes Mike Tyson (life size sculpture), Prince Charles and magicians Siegfried and Roy who commissioned the sculpting prodigy to carve the duo with a white tiger. Possibly the largest purchase was made in 2007 by former tennis sensation David Lloyd who bought a set of 72 pieces that was insured for roughly $17 million.
Aside from his meticulous work ethic and steady hands, Willard has some extremely disorganized tendencies. His touring agent claims that his client can turn a hotel room upside down within minutes of checking in. He’s also notoriously poor with directions and regularly has trouble remembering names. Wigan’s past-time of choice is flying radio-controlled helicopters (miniature of course), of which he owns approximately 200. He makes sure that he never leaves home without one and sometimes flies them in his hotel room.
Of his work the artist comments “I can’t say that I enjoy making them, in fact my work drives me mad but it is all worth it when they are finished and I know the impact they will have on people – that’ s when I enjoy it.” Willard’s philosophy is “Everything, life itself, started small”. Clearly his life is not small anymore as his biography “I Spy with My Little Eye” is in stores October 1st and he is receiving offers from film studios for his life story.
Mr. Wigan cites his greatest achievement thus far as carving a sculpture of Jesus and his 12 disciples, but he plans to undertake an even more difficult task when he returns home in November. The artistic genius will attempt to recreate Queen Elizabeth’s gilded coronation carriage. He admits the most difficult part will be the reigns for the horses, and toys with the possibility of using a spider’s web for the job.
Aside from all that he has already accomplished (including having one of his creations named the eighth wonder of the world and being awarded an MBE degree by Prince Charles), surely Wigan has a long list of things left to achieve with his massive talent. The long list of his completed pieces, however, include sculptures of Elvis, President Obama and his family, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Goldilocks and the Three Bears (on a toothpick), the Statue of Liberty, the Lloyd’s building in London, the FIFA World Cup and Darth Vader battling Luke Skywalker.

The Hulk (Above) and Wigan holding his Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie lipstick sculptures.

Willard Wigan’s remaining U.S. tour dates are as follows:

Chicago Sep 3 - Oct 2 at the Nicole Gallery, 230 West Huron, Chicago, IL 60654
tel: 312 787 7716

Houston Oct 3 –Nov 8 at the Gremillion Gallery, 2501 Sunset Boulevard, Houston, TX 77005 tel: 713 522 2701

Washington, DC Nov 13, 2009 - Jan 15, 2010at the Parish Gallery, Canal Square at 1054 31st Street NW, off M Street, Georgetown - tel: 202 944 2310

Middz Note: You can find some great videos of Willard Wigan including interviews, appearances, and speeches on YouTube as well as on his official website