Art and nanotechnology have officially merged, and artist and engineer Jonty Hurwitz is the culprit. He has created a series of surreal sculptures that seem impossibly small. How small? Small enough so that they can fit on the head of an ant and can only be viewed with a scanning electron microscope.

According to Hurwitz's website, his nano sculptures represent "the smallest human portraits ever created."

The sculpture depicted above, which is a recreation of "Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss" by Antonio Canova, was created using a new kind of 3D printing technology called multiphoton lithography. Basically, the sculptures are formed by blasting a light-sensitive polymer with photons. For perspective, you can view this sculpture zoomed out on the head of an ant here:

sculpture on a head of an ant

Another of Hurwitz's works, titled "Trust," was created from 3D imaging taken of a live human model. For scale, it has been balanced to stand on a single human hair, as shown here:

Hurwitz's Trust sculpture on a human hair

Hurwitz writes of his work on his website: "The absolute fact is this: the human eye is unable to see these sculptures.  All you see is a small mirror with ... nothing on it. The only way to perceive these works is on the screen of powerful scanning electron microscope. So how can you ever know that this sculpture really exists? Your only way to engage with it is through a screen, and a mouse separating you and the art via a vacuum and a series of mathematically mind-blowing quantum processes that shower the art with particles to map its contours."

The sculptures do have an skin-crawling, eerie quality to them. They not only put our own size into perspective, compared to the totality of the cosmos in which we inhabit, but they make us wonder at the microscopic gallery that is hidden from view on the tiniest of scales. These sculptures could posture all around us — even upon us! — without ever being detected.

Here's a behind-the-scenes video by Hurwitz that explores this art in more detail:

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