Installation view of Towers for a Beam at Artist Project front entrance, Black Umbrella Photography

Exhibition: Towers for a Beam, front entrance installation at Artist Project Contemporary Art Fair 2020, Toronto

Microscopes all share the same principle pattern based on the dispersion and convergence of information. Refraction, reflection and diffraction of light are all means of manipulating perception to render the invisible visible to reveal a new dimension of perception. This dispersion pattern and convergence of information is also evident in its design. Towers for a Beam is an installation of thirteen suspended sculptures based on the structural design of microscopes for the front entrance of Artist Project 2020. The installation invites viewers to explore each unique sculpture based on sight and perspectives before moving on to the diverse range of artistic styles, mediums and perspectives viewers will encounter in the Artist Project.

Genesis installed at Ontario Place

Exhibition: Genesis at Ontario Place Winter Light Exhibition 2020, Toronto

When I began to think of the curatorial theme for this year’s Ontario Place Winter Festival it didn’t make any sense to me. What does cocoon have anything to do with light, or winter? Then I realized that light had everything to do with cocoon. Light is energy. It generates life and as a form of energy it embodies a cocoon that nourishes growth and transformation.  So I designed an installation with light as the central medium. In GENESIS, the beams of light are all directed to the centre of sculpture, and even though the beams will have visible trajectory, light will still pass through the centre. It will only be when someone stands within the sculpture to capture the beams of light that the true form of the sculpture takes shape. Standing at the centre of GENESIS people are given a moment to experience being saturated in light. Every movement they make will be deflected by the beams creating a dynamism between the person(s) and the light of the piece. The focus of light to a single point has many cultural, scientific and religious references. What they all have in common is the notion that the concentration of light creates a focus of thought, a form of incubation, a point of transformation, a genesis. So I welcome everyone to pose within GENESIS to become the focal point of light and energy.

Static Light (vertical) at ergoCentric for DesignTO 2020

Exhibition: Light is Magnetic presented at DesignTO 2020, Toronto

Light is energy. It encompasses a spectrum of electromagnetic radiation much of which exists beyond our visible experience. This is the light that can not be seen manifest in radio waves, infrared, ultraviolet, x-ray and gamma rays. My art is inspired by the physics of light as I seek to find ways to portray energy. Light is Magnetic is an exhibition that brings together my recent experiments in light sculpture.  It will include sculptures that integrate light or reflective elements with other conceptual pieces that explore the connection between light and energy.

Traverse waves of electric and magnetic fields are the dynamic forces that make up light. In my sculpture I call them loops or static light. The light that I incorporate into these works serve to illuminate energy and the dynamic pathways of electric and magnetic fields. Magnetic fields are by their nature invisible yet abound in our natural and artificial environment through the earth’s constant geomagnetic presence and barrage of technology, cell phones and personal devices that all emit magnetic fields. Recent advances in science have deepened our understanding of magnetism to embrace radical geometries and dynamism as the language of nature and technology.

Light is Magnetic exhibition will showcase works that animate magnetic fields and explore alternate geometries in a solid, static state. Sculptures in the exhibition will include variations of Static Light, that debut in the Venice Biennale of Architecture 2018. Static Light refers to the electromagnetic wave lengths that shape and define light and energy.

Halo installed at Ontario Place in Toronto 2018-19

Exhibition: Ontario Place Winter Light Exhibition 2019

Winter brings a swell of optical phenomena. The combination of light, water and cooler temperatures creates an infinite array of wonder from tiny ice crystal formations to grand illusions overwhelming the sky. Halos are optical illusions that occur when light interacts with ice crystals captured in cirrus or cirrostratus clouds such as in 22° halos, also called winter halos. Halos are white or colored when ice crystals act as prisms and disperse the light creating a spectrum of colors. For Ontario Place Winter Light Exhibition inspired by the curatorial vision of Disruptive Engagement I present HALO, a light-based sculpture installation of three winter halos that highlight the disruptive beauty found in winter light.

HALO represents a large-scale light art installation that seeks to connect viewers with the natural wonders of winter. Winter gives the casual viewer a new lens in which to see the world. It magnifies an infinitesimal world of water transformed into ice crystals and grandiose displays. The light that traverses through ice crystals to create a halo is fractured, dispersed and scattered. In the moment a halo forms, the ice crystals magically align to create a fleeting wonder. HALO captures the ephemeral nature of winter’s phenomenal magic and provides the viewer with an opportunity to discover, reflect and enjoy the interchange of light in winter day or night.

Static Light 12 x 12 x 72″ brass, LED

Exhibition: TIME SPACE EXISTENCE – European Cultural Centre with the Venice Biennale of Architecture 2018, Venice, Italy


As a sculptor, I am drawn to the visual animations of fluid dynamics and magnetism that explore the underlying structure of the universe. Fluid dynamics is the study of the mechanics of flow in liquid, gas and air; while magnetism is the dominant force structuring movement. As relevant subject matter for an architecture biennale I am contributing new work to the GAA Foundation’s TIME SPACE EXISTENCE exhibition that seeks to visualize dynamic structures and engage in dialogues on chaotic geometries in context with art and architecture.

Tidal Skeleton portrays the skeletal structure of water through a quarried slab of limestone paired with the pattern of the sun’s reflection on water cut out of clear acrylic. The weight of the solid, opaque stone is juxtaposed with the glass-like clear acrylic. Limestone, especially Keystone limestone from the Pleistocene age is composed of the sediment from skeletal fragments of marine organisms. It is a porous rock full of residual fossils defined over time and space. Clear acrylic is transparent but a solid plastic material. The contrast of pervious and impervious materials was important for a work that represents fluid dynamics, which affects both the formation and deterioration of matter.

Magnetism is the dominant force of our universe, and like fluid dynamics, part of our unseen environment. Magnetic fields are ubiquitous, largely invisible, and in a permanent state of flux. Architecture shares a long history with magnetism since the compass was one of the first means of establishing orientation. For an architect, orientation is the measure from which all other measures follow. For many sculptors magnetism is synonymous with gravity, but I see magnetism as synonymous with structure. Map of Random Attraction and Static Light are very different works, yet both strive to capture the chaotic geometry of magnetic fields.

Map of Random Attraction is part of a series of handmade paper works that combines crushed magnet and/or iron with paper pulp to create embedded magnetic maps. Static Light depicts an oscillating wave of light contrasted with a linear rod. Light is analogous to seeing. Unseen, magnetic fields of electric currents occupy our environment in a permanent state of flux. Both artworks explore magnetism structurally, seeking new forms and perspective. Far from the calm sequential geometry found in Fibonacci’s patterns, the geometry of magnetic fields manifests in chaotic patterns. Following the advance of science and our understanding of the magnetic geometry and fluid dynamics is a challenge to renew our perception of time, space and existence, breathing new life into static forms that shape art and architecture.

SOLAR FIELDS (Winter Fields)

Exhibition: Ontario Place Winter Light Exhibition 2018

In designing a sculpture installation for the Ontario Place Winter Festival, I took inspiration from the sun. The presence of sun in winter is always a cherished sight; bringing warm and memories of summer into view. During the Canadian winter the sun is often perceived as low, dim and distant behind forever grey clouds. Many people don’t realise that the earth’s perihelion, meaning closest to the sun, occurs during winter. The earth’s aphelion (furthest distance from sun) is actually during summer. It is the earth’s axis which accounts for seasonal fluctuation. This year the earth’s perihelion will take place on January 3, 2018 at the same time as Ontario Place Winter Festival. Winter Fields highlights the sun’s proximity to the earth during  winter to become a point of discovery, vitality and brilliance for festival goers.

Winter fields will take the shape of magnetic fields. Much like the magnetic fields that radiate from the sun’s surface, Winter fields will appear to emerge from sunspots in a burst of energy. The fields themselves will be made with stainless steel and acrylic rods.  During the day the sculpture will appear as static motion – like icicles formed out of the earth’s magnetism frozen in place.  Then at night, LEDs charge light through the rods in a blaze of color. The magnetic fields will be bright against the winter night, glowing yellow and orange and red. The aim will be to portray light as elemental: as a source of energy.

Magnetic Skeleton (plural)  2017

Exhibition: Portal Art Fair in New York, NY May 3-8, 2017.

Encased in a large clear acrylic globe are thousands of ball bearings lying on the horizon.  In places the balls are clustered into small mounds that with closer inspection reveal to be paired with tiny birds’ feet. I call them Magnetic Skeletons. They are birds made of ball bearings held together only with a few magnets charging the surrounding steel balls. Beneath the birds are clumps of iron filings so abundant and thick that stalactites form.

Magnetic Skeleton (plural) visualizes a flight of birds interrupted. The magnetism that once guided them on a migratory path is shown here arresting them to earth. They bear enormous weight. The steel balls that make up their bodily forms are physically heavy yet reminiscent of atoms fervently orbiting life. The magnetism that pulls them is omnipresence, even in death. Like the ball bearings that form the birds, the sphere is a poignant symbol of life and death.

Magnetic Skeleton (plural) emerged from an earlier installation called The Pull of the Moon presented by the Paul Petro Special Projects Space in Toronto, Canada.  The Pull of the Moon focused on wildlife autonomously connected through magnetism and lured into cities. All the sculptures were magnetised to represent animals guided by magnetic forces. The exhibit signified a pivotal step in the way I perceive and make sculpture exploring ideas that have become the central motif in my artwork: nature and magnetism. Over the past decade nature and magnetism has manifest in a vast array of articulations in my work including the evolution of Magnetic Skeleton (plural) in 2017.

Listen to Tonya's CBC Radio One interview

CBC Radio One Saskatchewan The Evening Edition with Craig Lederhouse

The Arctic Circle 2014 fibreglass, LEDs life size dimensions

The Arctic Circle
Exhibition: Scotiabank Nuit Blanche 2014

The Arctic Circle
Between the earth and the sky, the possibility of everything
Even from a distance the ubiquitous animals of the Arctic are recognizable. They are conspicuously white, far from the camouflage of snow, against the grey urban scape. It is clear that they are modelled on realism, yet details are muted. What is not clear and requires a closer look is the source of light flickering from the corner of eyes, lips, and ears.
A white owl is perched on a sculpted white branch, with its full wing span outstretched. Its eyes are glowing and welcoming like a pair of binoculars. Peering within reveals a hollow body cavity where a projection is playing of a swarm of birds spinning around inside like a vortex. Next to the owl is a hare standing on its hind legs in an attempt to see as far as possible. Its mouth is open. You must crouch low to see inside at the abysmal darkness. This hare has swallowed a black hole. The wolf too has its mouth open. Inside is a video loop showing a full lunar eclipse, over and over again. The fox and the polar bear are here too. They are both projecting spectacles outward. When you stand in front of the fox, an electric storm will flash across your chest. The bear emits the aurora borealis like breathe.
On any other day or night the Arctic animals are like us: an opaque mass of cells fervently bound and blind to our own internal wonderment. We are impervious to the natural phenomena unfettered within us. We do not register the electric currents that fire memories and messages through synapses in our mind. Nor do we feel the magnetism that arcs our bones or the cells that re-stitch our fingerprints. The phenomena invisible within us mirrors the natural phenomena all around us. The Arctic Circle calls for a new sensibility with some of the most vulnerable animals on earth. Between the earth and the sky, we stand within the possibility of everything.

Listen to Tonya's CBC Radio One interview

Look out! Floating polar bears are migrating to Confederation Park! My sculptures will be lighting up Winterlude.
Listen to my interview with CBC Radio One.

Polar Magnetic 2013 Fibreglass, stainless steel, LEDs 3 pieces 96 x 96 x 85”

Polar Magnetic 2013 Fibreglass, stainless steel, LEDs 3 pieces 96 x 96 x 85”

Exhibition: Winterlude 2013, Ottawa

Polar Magnetic
When Winterlude opens in February 2013, the polar bears will be in the Arctic Circle, at least we all hope. Every winter a new record is set for the recession of the polar ice caps, and with it the loss of habitat for the polar bear.  A sequential migration is set into motion as a desperate measure for preservation. So far we only read, hear and see the brown and black bear appearing with greater frequency in our midst. But how long before the polar bear makes it debut? The pull or allure resulting in displaced migration, clearly motivated by a need for self preservation is what inspired me to create Polar Magnetic.

Polar Magnetic displays a polar bear and her cub enveloped within their magnetic fields. They appear to float along their migration path, suspended by the spokes of their magnetic arms. It is an unreal sight, yet sadly plausible.

Guided by magnetic impulses that dictate preservation, the polar bears arrive in a habitat they have not evolved to survive in. However, where there is no ice, let there be light. In tune with Winterlude’s theme this year, IllumiNation, Polar Magnetic will radiate with magnetic energy, metaphorically at least. During the day, the polar bears will gleam white coats and metallic spokes, while at night they will glow with the vitality of life and determination.

The Jelly Gene Machine 2012 gum ball machine, jelly beans, capsules 96 x 48 x 48"

The Jelly Gene Machine
gum ball machine, jelly beans, capsules
96 x 48 x 48″

Exhibition: Scotiabank Nuit Blanche 2012

The Jelly Gene Machine
The Eaton Centre is the epicenter of consumerism in downtown Toronto. Through its historic doors shoppers shop for cosmetics that defy age, the latest endorsed running shoes, the watch that Brad Pitt wears, the song that Justin Bieber sings, the choice denim boot cut, the fastest fast food, the highest thread count linen, the best phone plan…ad infinitum ad nauseam.  That is, the Eaton Centre has the essentials and essentially everything else that we need and want.

Therefore, the Eaton Centre is a fitting location for The Jelly Gene Machine: Get the Genes You’ve Always Wanted! for Scotiabank Nuit Blanche 2012. The Jelly Gene Machine is a large gumball machine that dispenses jelly beans with inscribed imaginary genes.  Rather than common traits such as green eyes or baldness, Jelly Genes are more akin to superhero traits like the ability to fly, invisibility, x-ray vision, telepathy, immortality et cetera. The Jelly Genes are whimsically reminiscent of the magic beans from Jack-in-the-beanstalk that held infinite potential and possibility. However, there is a grimmer side to this tale.

Eugenics has always been a controversial subject. Advancements in science and technology which broach the manipulation of genetic structure instigate moral and ethical debate.  The study of eugenics has its root in evolutionary biology at the turn of the twenty century; however, it is infamously associated with the horrors of the Nazi regime.   As a result, eugenics is explored with trepidation in the realm of science and technology. In our onward march to improve the human race, genetic manipulation continues to raise new questions along side the growing possibilities.

The Jelly Gene Machine will be available for the full twelve hours of Nuit Blanche, and function as a regular gumball machine that costs twenty-five cents. However, the consumption of the jelly beans is just something to chew on; the main attraction is the idea of the machine itself.  The possibility of personalizing our genetic composition on whim or trend, like trying on a pair of jeans, may seem idyllic, except it’s not difficult to imagine humankind spiraling into a kind of dystopian either.  Question is by having a multitude of generic possibilities available for subjective consumption, will it lead to an ‘improved human race’? According to who’s standard? Will more individuality arise among humankind, or will it generate more conformity?  With the Jelly Gene Machine located at the Eaton Centre, we can begin to ask these hypothetical questions, that may one day need an answer.


an infinite display of invisible electromagnetic
spectrum across the urban domain
(or INFRA)
Exhibition: Scotiabank Nuit Blanche 2011, Toronto

The scene takes place in the city centre downtown Toronto. Skyscrapers obscure light and horizon while asphalt snuffs the earth grid by grid forming the routes to work and play. Cradled by concrete and tar are the occasional slips of green, such as the parkette called the Cloud Gardens. Our scene takes place here.

Within the garden are three wolves. Not real wolves, rather life sized sculptures fabricated with aluminum and resin and then painted in bright fluorescent colors. They stand poised and alert as though forming a trinity of surveillance. The wolves seem to glow. In fact, they are made to appear as three dimensional renderings of infrared imagery. That is, these wolves are represented according to their invisible electromagnetic spectrum.

Take two. Heat is a byproduct of an organism’ biological functions, therefore an infrared image provides insight into the organisms’ vitality. Much like camouflage, infrared imagery displays a recognizable pattern popularized by low resolution cameras. The wolves in our scene are painted to mimic the design found in infrared technology which radiates in an outward display of intense vitality. Furthermore, black lights have replaced the garden lighting in order to enhance luminosity. The wolves are represented as pure energy, which metaphorically draws on the perception of non human animals as more attuned with their instincts. Consequently, the wolves appear ‘other’ even alien among the concrete edifices and the warm blooded people who built, work and play within this urban domain.

The inspiration for this installation conceived for Nuit Blanche 2011 began in the spring of this year following a string of incidents involving wildlife mingling with the urban downtown core. The first incident involved a deer that mesmerized morning traffic in the financial district. Shortly thereafter followed news of coyotes said to be attacking people and their pets. With a captive audience, the media continued to report stories from other cities and towns across Canada about wildlife clashing with urban life. Wildlife was invading urban space, no mistake.

Often wildlife discovered in human territories is met with fear and awe. They appear alien, other. Yet like the wolves which radiate in our scene, their thermal vitality is shared by all warm blooded animals. On the night of Nuit Blanche this year, audiences have the opportunity to discover that they too are part of this play.

Magnetic Skeleton 2009 magnets ball bearings pewter 4 x 5 x 11 in.

Magnetic Skeleton 2009 magnets ball bearings pewter 4 x 5 x 11 in.

Exhibition: The Pull of the Moon, Paul Petro Special Projects Space, 2009

The Pull of the Moon is a sculpture installation of three works that aim to represent a collision of magnetic forces. The title piece depicts a bear rug made of felt, magnets and iron filings. Piled on the floor below the bear are numerous birds made out of magnets, ball bearings and pewter cast feet. On the walls on either side of the sculptures are magnetic strips that represent the path way of a magnetic field on a collision course.

The sculptures are inspired by stories recounting fatal clashes between wildlife and urban life. The first story I read was about a bear, which after two failed relocation attempts, is shot dead in Fort St. John British Columbia. The second story comes from my own city of Toronto where is currently petitioning for office towers to shut off the lights at night to prevent the deaths of millions of birds every year.

Both stories depict wildlife on a collision course with human life, or vice versa.  Moreover, the stories draw a connection between the opposing forces of attraction and resistance. Like the moon and the tides, I thought of magnetism. But what happens when magnetic forces do not flow like a pendulum, rather collide? That is, what happens when the force of attraction collides with the force of resistance? In nature, a collision of magnetic forces is the catalyst for the awesome display of the Aurora Borealis. Here on earth the result is less awesome. From these thoughts flowed the creation of this installation titled The Pull of the Moon. Together the sculptures aim to set the scene of converging attractive forces met against resistance and certain death.
-Tonya Hart 2009