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Tue, 06.04.1957

Willard Wigan, Micro Artist born

Willard Wigan

*The birth of Willard Wigan is celebrated on this date in 1957. He is a Black British micro-artist and sculptor. 

From Wolverhampton, England, as a child, he had dyslexia and Asperger syndrome, neither of which were diagnosed until adulthood. Wigan was ridiculed in a class by his primary school teachers for not learning to read. Wigan attributes his early drive to sculpting, which began at the age of five, to his need to escape from the derision of teachers and classmates. He wanted to show the world that nothing did exist, deducing that if people could not view his work, they would not be in any position to criticize it.

He has since aimed to make even smaller artworks, visible only with a microscope. He is the creator of the world's smallest sculptures, often taking months to complete one, working between heartbeats to avoid hand tremors. “You have to control the whole nervous system; you have to work between the heartbeat and the pulse of your finger, which can destroy the work.". Wigan uses a tiny surgical blade to carve microscopic figures out of rice, and fragments of grains of sand and sugar, which are then mounted on pinheads. To paint his creations, he uses hair plucked from a dead fly (the fly has to have died from natural causes, as he refuses to kill them for the sake of his art).

His sculptures have included a Santa Claus and a copy of the FIFA World Cup trophy, both about 0.005mm (0.0002in) tall, and a boxing ring with Muhammad Ali's figure, which fits onto the head of a match. The 1993 British film An Eye on X follows Wigan's quest in carving two statues of American black activist Malcolm X, one life-size and the other on the head of a toothpick. Additional footage in the production archive includes Willard flying aircraft made of thin balsa wood, carving on the head of a toothpick, and talking about his early life. Wigan was inspired to do his work beginning at the age of 5. He is learning disabled and doesn't know how to read or write. He said that his childhood teachers "made [him] feel small, made [him] feel like nothing."

He decided to prove that "less is more" and that "nothing could be everything." Wigan was awarded an MBE for services to art in July 2007. In 2007, Wigan's 70-piece collection was purchased by tennis player and businessman David Lloyd, who ensured the collection for a total value of 11.2 million.  In 2010, the BBC reported that Wigan had sculpted a model of St Bartholomew's church in Chosen Hill, Gloucestershire, on a grain of sand that he had taken from its churchyard. He had done so in response to a challenge from his girlfriend, who described the result as "absolutely fantastic". 

The Library of Birmingham exhibited his works in January 2015.

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