These tiny sculptures are mind-blowing

When we say a sculpture is impressive because of its scale, we’re usually alluding to how big or tall it is.

But in the case of artist Jonty Hurwitz’ nano-sculptures, the scale is impressive — mind-boggling, really — because of how tiny it is.

Hurwitz claims the sculptures are the smallest depiction of the human form, and that they have been seen “in one way or another, in the web sphere, by 20 or 30 million people so far.”

The South African-born artist used more than 200 cameras in a warehouse in Sussex, England, to capture live models. The cameras all go off at the same time to provide data for reconstruction.

Technicians at Nanoscribe, a spin-off of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, recreated the models in a sterile lab. Light is focused on one point of a polymer to create 'a tiny 3D pixel (called a Voxel),' Hurwitz writes on his website. 'The sculpture is then moved along fractionally by a computer controlled process and the next pixel is created.'

These voxels number in the 'tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands' per sculpture, each voxel measuring between three and five hundred nanometres, Hurwitz told Business Insider. This tiny figure is still small enough to fit on a human hair.

The result: sculptures so small they can only be seen through an electron microscope -- a tool typically used to study cells. Here's one modelled on the 18th century neoclassical sculpture, 'Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss'.

For scale, here is the tiny sculpture on an ant's head! No insects in the lab, though: 'Those two (images) were composited together,' Hurwitz said.

Here's another angle on it, with a helpful scale comparison of a single human spermatozoa 10 microns long. A micron (or micrometre) is a millionth of a meter.

Here are 'Trust' and 'Cupid and Psyche' presented together. Hurwitz had a total of seven sculpture copies created (based on three models). They were completed in November 2014.

Another sculpture, 'about intensity,' Hurwitz writes. The 'melted' feet, the artist points out, were unintentional. 'We're working with a flawed paintbrush,' he said.

An even closer angle reveals the sculptures' unique, layered texture. Just as in other types of 3D printing, the material is created layer by layer, from bottom to top.

That 'big' toe is 4 micrometres long. That's smaller than a cell nucleus!

Of course, these sculptures are way too small to be seen with the naked eye. That's why technicians working with high-power microscopes are needed to photograph the minuscule works of art.

So although Hurwitz' works exists as sculpture, they're presented to viewers as photography.

Hurwitz' sculptures weren't the Nanoscribe team's first attempt at tiny sculpture-making. Previous models include the Statue of Liberty...

... the Eiffel Tower...

... and a spaceship!

Now that you've seen nano-art, here's what the natural world looks like at that scale.

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