The sharpened tip of a pencil is small, but French artist Marie Cohydon’s work is smaller. She offers a side-by-side comparison of her carved bird sculptures, and the minuscule scale, coupled with the incredible detail, is awe-inspiring. Cohydon does things that seem impossible at a size barely bigger than a pinhead; a toucan opens its mouth, for instance, and a bird spreads its articulated wings.
Prior to crafting her carvings, the artist worked in a field that also operates on a small scale—contemporary jewelry design. “I really started to carve in miniature on jeweler's wax, then quite naturally I used a microscope to see details better and to glue my subjects,” she tells My Modern Met. “From there, I discovered the possibilities of sculpture in the infinitely small.”
The size of Cohydon's work is informed by how the artist views the world. When she looks at an insect, she is amazed by its fragility—it is so small—but also its resilience. She also recognizes that to the bug, humans are inconceivably large. “Maybe I wanted to see what it's like to be in the giant's shoes,” she muses.
“To be [working] in the millimeter is to be in another dimension: accepting to be in the storm of tremors (heart, hands) and tornado (imperceptible breath of air on the dust). Physics, materials no longer behave in the same way on this scale, everything cracks, or breaks clean, everything flies when you cut, or you try to assemble. Making and remaking, twig after twig, little by little, the bird makes its nest, such is the universe of the microsculptor.”
Scroll down to see the details of Cohydon’s work taken with a special camera magnifier. For reference, the graphite in the pencil is five millimeters high and 2 millimeters wide.