Alternate Opinion on Wigan

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I’ve been following Mr Willard Wigan for a number of years. I first encountered him strolling through the famous Birmingham Bazaars on the South Bend. He was just a street artist then, and living one meal at a time. So personally I am delighted to see him doing well and receiving some much deserved praise.

But a good point question is raised in the previous post: what is the value of his art? My comrade asserts that these micro-sculptures “have no inherent value or meaning, and have only attracted attention because they are very small.” Is this an accurate judgment?

First we might ask if his work ought to be considered art at all. While creating tiny things is certainly impressive, they must be imbued with some kind of spirit if we are to call them art. Or if they lack spirit, there must be some reason. How does Mr Wigan work? What inspires him? Why does he choose his subjects?

If we look to Mr Wigan for answers, we are likely to be left disappointed. Wigan, who is learning disabled, seems to be interested only in his work’s most obvious feature — its smallness. When asked to name his favorite piece, he responds: “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, just because I had to fit so much into the head of a pin.” As for his most challenging piece? “That would be the mini model of The Last Supper.” For its controversial subject matter? No — because “It had TWELVE disciples and Jesus… [it] was a real challenge.”

Wigan’s art, if we take his word for it, is merely a challenge, a feat of dexterity. In other words, Wigan fashions himself not as an artist but as an artisan.

But I’m of the opinion that an artist is not the authority of his own art. And while my comrade finds much to be desired in the quality of Wigan’s micro-figurines, I find much to be pondered in his decision to work on the microlevel generally.

Wigan’s subjects are always iconic, and for that reason they are more effective as representations than actual materials. Take this work for instance:

Here I am less interested in the quality of the work than in the event it depicts, a classic fight between two great fighters. The stage is set, flashbulbs going off, money being exchanged, but all in this “microworld,” almost invisible to the human eye. This is a world where a sneeze could blow away civilizations, a wrong step could crush castles, and a routine dusting could be some accidental genocide. The weird perspective is enough to induce a kind of vertigo, a sense of confusion about our significance. Do we feel big because these events are so small? Or do we feel small because we identify with them? I’m reminded of David Lynch’s Lady in the Radiator, the toilet fruit from Rocko’s Modern Life, or the 3 Espers marching up Tetsuo’s pillow in Akira. Perhaps the definitive microworld is Swift’s Lilliput.

Ultimately then, I find Wigan’s work produces almost the opposite effect he has intended. His tiny things are meant to inspire, to show that great things come in small packages. Yet I believe Wigan has inadvertently tapped into a disconcerting and even disturbing world that plays on our fears of the very small. Hidden in his trite comments and his artwork’s kitschy appeal is a mind-bending technique that makes people — or at least me — shudder. It’s not the skilled craftsmanship but the creepy quality of his tiny sculptures that make them art.

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3 Responses to “Alternate Opinion on Wigan”

  1. gene Says:

    Well, of course you cannot use an artistic’s own statements to determine what is art. Suppose one critic thought that Michelangelo was a mediocre boor in his conversation about his work, would that make him less of an artist? With Wigan, the more you learn about his life, his personal and artistic discipline and sacrifice, his techniques, the more you are convinced that he is himself a genius. Because, presumably, at this time his work cannot be “reproduced” by even a skilled copyist, takes his work to even a higher plane. I am awed by his work — for me that is enough.

  2. Dave Says:

    Watch this ; much better 😉

  3. Mart Says:

    Willard Wigan is a true artist. I’ve seen the Mona Lisa, and frankly, it didn’t impress me at all, I can throw paint on a canvas and call it art, but with Willard’s work, there is no denying it is a true master piece. I think your obsessed with him, since you have been following him for years.

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