Thomas Devaney’s art studio is watching you

Photo by  / Insider Staff
Thomas Devaney’s art studio is a sight for giant 3D eyes.
By Keith Testa / Insider Staff
December 24, 2013



Photo by Keith Testa / Insider Staff
The eye is much larger up close and personal. You’d need a crane to get a contact lens in that thing!
Photo by Keith Testa / Insider Staff
The 3D canvas sits atop a wooden stand to achieve optimal height.

If you’ve stopped at the intersection of Pleasant and Main streets after dark lately, you may have had the feeling you were being watched. And you probably were.

By a giant 3-dimensional projected eyeball.

Thomas Devaney’s studio at 3 Pleasant St. has always overlooked downtown Concord, but it’s never done so more literally. As part of his experimentation with 3D video mapping in preparation for a future show, Devaney has set up a large, three-dimensional eyeball that looks around and blinks and can be spotted rather easily from street level.

When he leaves the lights off in the studio after dark and turns the projector on, pedestrians on Main Street are left with a mesmerizing view of a mesmerizing view.

“I just thought it would be kind of cool. It’s a fun spot to be keeping an eye on things,” Devaney said. “People seem to really enjoy it. It’s called 3D video mapping, and it’s done with a three-dimensional object and some projectors. That’s how it gets the effect when you’re moving around it like it’s really there.”

Given the way some people veer through the intersection at Pleasant and Main, you could argue that Devaney’s projection is the only blinker you’ll find there. And it’s quite a tantalizing sight. The eyeball is remarkably lifelike – aside from its scale, of course – and moves around every couple of seconds as if following the action.

Creating the image required some tinkering, for sure. Devaney assembled a large, 3D canvas in the middle of his studio and uses projectors to relay the images. The eyeball is the most popular one, he said, but he has other options as well, including a snow scene and an image of people falling.

For Halloween Howl, Devaney set up a pumpkin that turned into a jack-o-lantern.

Technology makes the project even more exciting. Devaney has the entire thing networked through several computers so that he can run it remotely, meaning he can get a request to turn the eyeball on and do so from the comfort of his home.

“It’s completely remotely operated, so I can do it from wherever I am,” Devaney said. “If people know they are going to be downtown, they can shoot me an email and I can turn it on for them.”

Devaney said it took some time to find the optimal location for the image, work that required him to shift things around and head down to street level himself in order to get a better view. But he ultimately achieved exactly what he was going for.

“I wanted to set it up so that it was optimal to the street corner where the light is, if you are heading south on Main Street,” Devaney said.

Mission accomplished. The eyeball (or whatever image is being projected) is easy to spot for drivers waiting at the light heading south toward the Co-op or the Capitol Center for the Arts. It could be creepy, if it wasn’t so awesome.

Devaney got into 3D video mapping experimentation as part of a show he’s preparing to unveil at St. Paul’s School in early 2015. There, he said, he will be projecting images onto his sculptures and paintings in order to make certain pieces stand out at certain times.

He can project the image of a painting or sculpture over the real thing and use the technology to highlight individual aspects, making them appear to rise from the canvas.

“This is all experimental prep work for a larger project I’m going to be doing,” Devaney said. “I’m planning some three-dimensional video mapping stuff for that off of some of my sculptures, and all of this is kind of just prep work for that, trying to figure out the technology and how to get things done.”

Devaney has gotten creative with the project in the studio already. He has two projectors that can work simultaneously, allowing him to make it look like the eyeball is blinking through a snowstorm. He can also project an image – static or moving – onto the walls and ceiling in the background as the eye is active, making it look almost like a movie is taking place behind it.

Among the scenery he can project in the background is a lightning storm, an aurora borealis or a variety of nature scenes.

The feedback has thus far been very positive, Devaney said, which makes the project much more interactive and entertaining for him.

“It’s been really fun,” he said. “People seem to really love it.”