Exhibited at Cornish College of the Arts Main Gallery, Seattle, 2011. Curated by Cable Griffith. (Photos: Zac Culler)
mapSculpt is a digital projection-mapped, bas-relief, landscape painting. The physical sculpture is constructed of spandex with a projection screen coating sewn to laser-cut acrylic supports. A ceiling mounted digital projector casts the image of a landscape with the same proportions as the sculpture. The combination of the real world object and virtual model align, physically, to be perceived as a single construct.
The design of mapSculpt utilizes the technique of height-mapping which is found primarily in 3D video games. Height-mapping translates a flat 2D grayscale image into a 3D mesh where the height of each vertex in the mesh is determined by the brightness of the corresponding pixel in the 2D image. Both the physical and virtual components of mapSculpt use a 16x9 pixel image as their blueprint. As a result there are 144 acrylic supports and 144 corresponding vertices in the 3D mesh.
The virtual image is texture-mapped with a perlin noise algorithm modified by the original height map and colored with a woodland palette. There is cutoff, also based on the height map, that determines if a pixel will be rendered with the yellows and sepias found in some pastures as opposed to being set to the color range of a dense forest seen from above. This image is much higher resolution lending a more visually complex surface variation to the low polygon model it is textured onto.
A suite of custom software is used to both construct and present the piece. This allows for a near infinite variation (improvements) on the same theme and technique. This software is written by the artist using the Processing programming language. This sculpture can be stored in a small box and transported, then set up again with different hardware. Because the software is written in Processing it is also easily portable. The software suite also includes a tool to create the laser paths for fabrication, and the tool for creating the image file and is therefore completely "stand-alone" in terms of creating new variations of the artwork.