It’s magical ability to capture our imagination is as miraculous as the device itself. Elaborate wind-up machines called automata, or automatons, are mechanical marvels dating from a time as early as the 13th century. Tom Haney, the artist of these automata, has always been fascinated by mechanical movement. “The work I create today is a modern offshoot of the time-honored Old World tradition of automata,” he says. Using carved wood and old objects as his main materials, his art brings new life into obsolete artifacts, literally.
Inspired by earlier innovators like Edison, Bell and the Wright Brothers, to the more contemporary work of Calder, Haney incorporates multi-dimensional movement that extends the viewer’s perspective of the piece as more than its material. It’s a process that he describes as “clockwork”, where the actual “work” is hidden inside his whimsical, puppet-like figures; blacksmiths hammering away in their workshop, kids playing on a seesaw, or a girl swimming in the deep blue sea.
“I love the old ways of doing things, old tools and traditional techniques. Working with one’s hands still has value. I believe there is a magical transformation that happens when mechanical movement is added to a static figure. This movement captures a viewer’s attention and holds it to the point where they are drawn into interpreting the stories the piece conveys.”