It's a Small World

A spitting image of the pope inside the eye of a needle? You've got to be kidding!

No joke: Sixteen of Armenian-born artist Hagop Sandaldjian's microscopic miniatures are so tiny, they're only visible to the human eye through magnified portals set in translucent preservation chambers illuminated by fiber-optic lights. The gasp-inspiring minisculptures -- one painted onto a grain of rice, others on strands of hair -- beg the question: Just what kind of person would craft at a scale at which paint application can only take place between heartbeats, at 3 a.m., when the vibrations in the world are weakest?

To answer questions like these, curator David Wilson, director of the L.A.-based Museum of Jurassic Technology, provides an equally tantalizing biopic of the artist projected onto a scrim of glass. The glass permits a somber drapery to be seen behind the plane of illumination, and the film appears like a ghost story transmitted from the ether. The overall presentation of the work leaves visitors feeling as though they've traveled to a Gothic funeral parlor and looked in on preserved specimens from some skewed version of the 20th century. "Microminiatures From Armenia," a collection of Sandaldjian's work presented by Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, is on display through May 2 at the M.H. de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, 10th Avenue & Fulton, S.F. Admission is free-$7; call 863-3330.

-- Marcy Freedman

 
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