Building on the success of his 2012 exhibition at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pa., and 2013 show at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens & Museum of Art in Nashville, Tenn., British artist Bruce Munro is once again dazzling audiences with his use of light as a creative medium at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens (ABG). On view through Oct. 3, the site-specific exhibition titled, “Bruce Munro: Light in the Garden,” features six of the artist’s large-scale, mixed-media light installations: Forest of Light, Water Towers, Beacon, Eden Blooms, Three Degrees, and Swing Low. It is his sixth solo exhibition in the U.S. “This exhibition will be something unlike any other that Atlantans have experienced,” said Garden President and CEO Mary Pat Matheson in a press statement. “At dusk, the Garden will become this enchanting yet natural landscape that visitors just have to see to believe.”
Forest of Light is the show’s largest installation featuring more than 30,000 fiber-optic-illuminated stemmed glass-spheres that carpet the Garden’s Storza Woods, a 15-acre woodland. The display is an adaptation of Munro’s iconic Field of Light, which was first exhibited at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London in 2004. At dusk the spheres “blossom” with colored light as the installation comes to life and a rainbow of colors gently washes across the site.
Also on display is the piece titled Water Towers, another of Munro’s well known works. For this iteration in Atlanta, 20, six-foot-tall towers, each constructed from 216 recycled plastic bottles (4,320 in total), ring the Garden’s Fuqua Conservatory’s Aquatic Pond. Fiber optic cables weave through the towers and provide a color-changing light sequence set to music. The contrast of light and dark, and the natural and the man-made ongoing themes explored by Munro in his work is further accentuated as the piece is framed by the backdrop of the downtown Atlanta skyline.
Beacon, is another piece that uses plastic bottles (2,730 in total), is built over the superstructure of a geodesic dome and is illuminated with colored light. The artwork was first created atop Long Knoll at Munro’s home in Wiltshire, in the U.K. to provide a message of hope to cancer patients and cancer survivors. For the Atlanta show, the installation is situated at the Howell Fountain at the end of the Great Lawn.
Eden Blooms explores Munro’s use of repetitive design elements. Set in the Garden’s Fuqua Conservatory’s Rotunda, the “futuristic flower-like blooms” are constructed around a spherical core lit with a vibrant color in a nod to the exotic tropical plants on display.
The piece titled Three-Degrees was specially created for the ABG. The three helix-shaped sculptures are each covered in a reflective material and appear to be suspended by a ring of fiber optic threads.
Finally, Swing Low is a large-scale version of a piece first made for a private residence in London. A series of giant illuminated spheres that form an arc, it is suspended over the Fern Dell Fountain in the ABG’s Southern Seasons Garden.
Munro first set up his studio in 1992 and with his team of designers and technicians has created exhibition works and commissioned pieces around the world. The botanical garden settings in the U.S. have proved a particularly conducive environment for his work providing expansive landscapes that allow his work to flourish at a grand scale. The current exhibition was overseen by 11 members of Munro’s studio team and took 10 months to design and another five months to construct. The works, which use more than106 light sources and 205-plus miles of fiber optic cable, were shipped from the U.K. to the U.S. in two 40-foot-containers where 1,104 volunteer hours were spent aiding Munro’s team with the local installation.
Elizabeth Donoff is Editor-in-Chief of Architectural Lighting. She joined the editorial team in 2003 and has become a leading voice in the lighting community speaking at industry events such as Lightfair and the International Association of Lighting Designers Annual Enlighten Conference, and has twice served as a judge for the Illuminating Engineering Society New York City Section’s (IESNYC) Lumen Award program. In 2009 she received the Brilliance Award from the IESNYC for dedicated service and contribution to the New York City lighting community.
Prior to her entry into design journalism she worked in New York City architectural offices including FXFowle where she was part of the project teams for the Reuters Building at Three Times Square and the New York Times Headquarters. She is a graduate of Bates College in Lewiston, Me., and earned her Master of Architecture degree from the School of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis.