Russian artist fashions tiny face masks for insects amid COVID outbreak

The artist has previously made the world's smallest book

A Siberian artist, known for creating microscopically small artworks, is now making tiny face masks....for insects to remind people about nature.

Anatoly Konenko, is a ‘"micro-miniaturist" living in Omsk, about 1,400 miles from Moscow. He specializes in producing works at exceptionally small scale, often only visible under a microscope.

Since the coronavirus pandemic began and Russia went under lockdown, Konenko has passed some of the time constructing face masks around the size of a grain of rice for his collection of preserved insects and animals, including a dragon fly and a tiny crab.

The masks, which measure just a few millimeters, are cut from cloth and are precise replicas of those worn by humans. They have adjustable straps and one for a grasshopper even includes a working filter.

“It’s just I had the grasshopper,” Konenko said, reached by phone on Friday, while he was working a mask for a mosquito. “He was in my collection and so I decided to try to do it for him.”

Konenko has created a number of record-setting objects over the years, including the world’s smallest aquarium, which held two teaspoons worth of water but still contained live fish.

For a time, he held the Guinness World Record for producing the world’s smallest book, an edition of Anton Chekhov’s short story, "Chameleon," which he made in 1996. The book was 0.9 millimeters by 0.9 millimeters, smaller the than a grain of salt, but still had 30 pages that could be turned, complete with illustrations.

In one of his early works, Konenko put minuscule horseshoes on a real flea, in a reference to a popular Russian short story.

In 2016, another Siberian micro-miniaturist, Vladimir Aniskin, produced a book he said he believed was now the smallest in the world, 0.07 by 0.09 millimeters, mounted on a sliver of poppy seed.

Omsk, where Konenko lives, currently has 958 recorded cases of coronavirus. Russia has the third largest outbreak in the world, with 387,623 confirmed virus cases and 4,374 recorded deaths.

Konenko said he hoped his new insect works would encourage people to remember nature, at a time when the focus is on mankind.

He said they were not intended to persuade people to wear masks during the pandemic, although he himself does on the street, in accordance with rules making it obligatory in most Russian regions.

“With people, it’ll get sorted out without me,” he said. “I just wanted that at the same time when we’re occupying ourselves with people, they don’t forget about insects.”

“Insects are symbols of nature. People shouldn’t forget about nature,” he said.