Swiss artist breaks glass ceiling with portrait of Kamala Harris

The installation "Vice President Kamala Harris Glass Ceiling Breaker" at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, February 4, 2021. Associated Press

His glass-shattering works are sometimes inaccurately taken for vandalism in Switzerland. But the most recent work by Simon Berger has hit the big time.

This content was published on March 23, 2021 - 10:13

Berger and US photographer Celeste Sloman both made portraits of US Vice President Kamala Harris, with the Swiss artist – a trained carpenter – using Sloman’s photo as a template for a work made of shattered glass. 

Using a technique he pioneered himself, Berger lightly hammered laminated glass to leave tiny cracks and fissures that together formed a likeness of the recently sworn-in vice president. The artwork was well received when it was exhibited on the National Mall in Washington DC, between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.

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Glass ceiling
The term ‘glass ceiling’ refers to the often invisible barrier that many women come up against when striving for career success. Berger’s work illustrates the smashing of this barrier by Harris, who is simultaneously the first US vice president to be female, black, of South Asian origin, and a graduate of a historically black college and university.  

Network support
The work was commissioned by ChiefExternal link, a private network for connecting and supporting women leaders, and presented by the National Women’s history museumExternal link in Washington. The almost two-metre-tall glass portrait, which weighs around 160 kilos, has since been removed from the Mall; the museum is now considering to either place it on exhibition or send it on tour.

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