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8 Amazing Works of Art You Need a Microscope to Appreciate

#4. The Tiny Origami of Anja Markiewicz

Anja Markiewicz
Seconds after this picture was taken, the mouse was devoured by a thumbnail-sized origami hawk.

Origami is tricky to begin with. Your material is more delicate than a 13-year-old girl's feelings during her period, you're not supposed to use glue or tape and if you don't follow the multistep patterns perfectly, you'll end up with the shameful sculpture known in origami circles as a "wad."

Well, in true "I'm so good at this, I can do it tiny" fashion, German artist Anja Markiewicz folds origami so small that she has to use needles to get the job done, and she starts with bits of paper less than an inch wide.

Anja Markiewicz
Cicada!

Look at that. She's taken this ancient, delicate art and shrunk it by, like, a gabillion. At any given point the creation it took hours to make could be mistaken for a piece of lint or an "absolutely nothing" and destroyed by an inward gasp. We're picturing someone with allergies walking into her studio and inhaling thousands of hours of work in a sneeze intake.

But even that seems downright sturdy compared to ...

#3. Lorenzo Duran's Cutaway Leaf Art

Design Boom
There's a thin line between genius and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

It's one thing to create beautiful things out of solid wood or paper or panties, it's another to make art out of a material that can crumble into a coke-fine nothingness as you work. Lorenzo Duran does just that with fallen leaves. His art is so delicate, so intricate, so Touched by an Angel-esque you'd be impressed that it gets done at all, much less out of the stuff that will make your compost next year.

Design Boom
Something tells us Lorenzo makes kickass jack-o'-lanterns.

Here's how he does it: First he has to collect the leaves. Then he has to wash them, dry them, press them and turn them into something other than leaves, presumably. Maybe grocery bags? Next, he creates a design on paper. Then he lays the paper over the leaf and walks away while his elf minions do the dirty work. Just kidding -- he uses a razor blade to cut out the designs himself.

Are you picturing that? Cutting out each of those branches with a razor? Are you picturing getting 95 percent of the way done with it, then accidentally lopping off half of the tree because your hand twitched? Are you picturing yourself running around the house trying to find a teeny tiny little roll of Scotch tape?

Oddity Central

OK, that's just ridiculous.

#2. Sculptures from a Single Toothpick

Toothpick Art
In case you've ever wanted to pick spinach out of your teeth with the Eiffel Tower.

You've probably heard of people building models out of toothpicks. Tedious work, sure, but there's always a way to take it to a level that will make even those people feel bad. Well, San Francisco artist Steven J. Backman does his models with just one toothpick. That's what it took to make the Eiffel Tower sculpture up there -- the wood of one toothpick, a straight razor, glue and spunk (the "gumption" kind of spunk, not the other kind of spunk -- that would be even more impressive.)

It's all a matter of slicing away at the individual toothpick and reassembling the tiny boards into the Brooklyn Bridge or White House or Marcy Projects. He can do anything!

Toothpick Art

Oh, and don't get us wrong, he can scale it up and make the big stuff, too:

Toothpick Art

We don't even want to know how he made the glass.

#1. NanoArt

Nanobama
Barack Obama is his own posse.

Those portraits of Barack Obama (who somehow makes his second appearance in this list of tiny art subjects) would look like nothing but specks or grains of sand if you held them in your hand -- the image up there was generated with an electron microscope.

What's the point of making art so tiny that you'd have to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids anyone who wanted to see it? We'll let the world's philosophers answer that question. In the meantime, NanoArt, art so small that you can't see it with the naked eye, is the newest thing in ... very small visual media, we guess? As for the image you see above:

"The smallest presidential portrait by far, each image is composed of [about] 150 million carbon nanotubes, roughly representing the number of votes cast in the 2008 presidential election."

If 150 million nanotubes sounds like a lot, keep in mind that all of them together still make a face that's only about 10 times the width of a human hair. Here's a very simple explanation of how it was made:

Nanobama
Can you tell those are fingers holding up that plate of tiny Obama heads? CAN YOU?

And here's a picture of some NanoArtists at work:

Wikipedia Commons

This is a whole genre of art, by the way, using all sorts of chemical processes to get cool-ass sculptures that microbes can gather around and enjoy. Below are "microfibers attached to a substrate that twist together upon evaporation of a solvent that they were immerged in."

Nanohedron
If you squint, they look a little like puckering anuses.

As amazing as that (presumably) is, all we can imagine is a fly swooping down and accidentally eating the whole thing.

Kristi likes Twitter and Tumblr and hot bread.

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