Jennifer Macklem, Ottawa artist and Associate Professor at the University of Ottawa, creates monumental public art wall in Toronto

Faculty of Arts
public art
Motion in Air (Ma) by Jennifer Macklem
“Motion in Air (Ma)” was inspired by the location’s connection to water, sky and plant life, and the concept of environmental optimism. The artistic process involved repeated refinements, exchange of ideas and dialogue over two years between Macklem and the Mirabella team.

When Julie Di Lorenzo was earning her Global Professional Master of Laws degree at U of T in 2019-20, she was fascinated by “Dragonfly,” an artwork of laser-engraved and hand-distressed acrylic panels, in the faculty of law’s atrium.

“I love dragonflies and that piece. It intersects philosophically with what we believe,” says Di Lorenzo, president of Mirabella Development Corp., (the evolution of Diamante Development Corp.), and an advocate for sustainability and environmental responsibility. She felt “Dragonfly” artist Jennifer Macklem could create an iconic work for Mirabella Luxury Condos, at 1926 Lake Shore Blvd. W. to spark curiosity about the area’s biodiversity.

The mural, made of over 500 custom-printed aluminum panels, “intersects philosophically with what we believe,” says Julie Di Lorenzo, president of Mirabelle Development Corp.

The result is one of the city’s most ambitious public art installations, “Motion in Air (Ma),” a mural measuring 12.5-by-120 metres — longer than a football field — consisting of more than 500 custom-printed recyclable aluminum panels. It is seen by more than 100,000 daily commuters travelling on the Gardiner Expressway near Windermere Ave. as well as GO train passengers on the Lake Shore line.

 

Motion in Air (Ma) by Jennifer Macklem installed

“Motion in Air (Ma)” was inspired by the location’s connection to water, sky and plant life, and the concept of environmental optimism. The artistic process involved repeated refinements, exchange of ideas and dialogue over two years between Macklem and the Mirabella team. The artwork and installation cost over $1 million, funded by the developer, including project partner Fengate Capital.

Artist Macklem, an associate professor of sculpture at the University of Ottawa who grew up in Montreal, explains her inspiration for “Motion in Air (Ma): “The St. Lawrence (river) was part of my life and to think the Great Lakes flow into St. Lawrence made sense to me. I was thinking of horizons, the way light reflects on water at different times of day and season.

“The Lake Ontario shoreline itself is a place of diversity, a ribbon of life and shorelines are very fertile and productive. That was very much a part of the conceptual design,” she said.

Macklem magnified the microscopic wing and eye of a dragonfly to enormous proportions. The mural also includes depictions of diatoms — primitive, microscopic single-celled algae that produce energy from sunlight — and botanical cross-sections of apple blossoms. Di Lorenzo hopes “Motion in Air (Ma)” inspires people to consider the biodiversity of Lake Ontario and its waterfront parks. “Dragonflies have been here longer than we have, and carry knowledge and time. They deserve a platform to remind us of our responsibility.

Macklem dedicated the piece to her mother, Joy Belcourt Macklem, who recently passed away (the title’s “Ma” refers to her and Mother Earth) and Di Lorenzo dedicated the installation to Enrico Mancinelli, who believed in her as a young female developer and championed women in leadership, as well as workers rights and workplace safety.

Jennifer Macklem "Dragonfly"
Jennifer Macklem in front of her work "Dragonfly"