Through the Looking Glass

Photography by Nikki Wesley

It illuminates downtown Burlington, delivering pops of vibrant colour both day and night.

Whether you’ve stopped to admire its beauty or merely caught a glimpse of it on your way down Brant Street, the sculpture better known as Portal is a definite conversation starter.

The creation by acclaimed Canadian art and design collective Studio F Minus was erected last year between James and Pine streets as part of Burlington’s new multi-use pathway project in the downtown core.

The sculpture is made from two 10-foot-diameter panes of glass, each weighing approximately 1,600 pounds. During the day, sunlight bounces off the glass, casting a multi-coloured reflection on the public space. In the evening, lights inside the sculpture change colour and alternate between reflection and transparency.

“Portal extends the idea of connection and allows viewers to look back on the path that they have travelled and ahead to where they are going,” explains the Burlington Cultural Map website. “Paint etched onto the surface of the glass extends into a volume far beyond the threshold of the portal.”

Studio F Minus is also the creator of Main Squeeze, a playful relief sculpture that stretches across the 30-metre-long fence that runs along the multi-use pathway between Elizabeth and Pearl streets. The artwork captures the moment of contact between the fence and a colourful material squeezing through its slats.

Both pieces come as part of the City of Burlington’s Public Art program, which brings the work of recognized artists to the city centre and local neighbourhoods. Established in 2009, the program is a council-approved system of processes that guide how artwork is commissioned, acquired and managed.

There are currently over 80 public pieces of art that can be found throughout the city.