October 12, 2022
Silhouetted black trees under a nearly full Hunter’s Moon last Saturday gave a unique Central Texas flavor to British artist Bruce Munro‘s light installation, Field of Light, at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. I’d purchased tickets for my family for 8 pm in order to see the fiber-optic, bioluminescent-eque display after the sun had gone to bed. That big old full moon came up and nearly stole the show!
What is Field of Light, you may be wondering?
“Illuminating 16 acres in the Texas Arboretum at the Wildflower Center, Field of Light is a stunning display of 28,000 vibrant solar-powered, fiber-optic light pods that showcase the intersection of art, technology, and nature. The installation unites with the outdoors, celebrating the natural topography of the landscape and creating an immersive and emotional experience for guests. The exhibit runs September through December 2022.”
You enter Field of Light through a back entrance to the arboretum, where a shuttle drops you off. The mood among fellow visitors was hushed, church-like, as we walked the half-mile trail, stopping often to take in the colorful, softly glowing view. Even though I’ve walked the arboretum trail dozens of times I was disoriented in the dark until we reached the iconic grove where swings usually hang from the live oaks.
Munro’s lights look like an alien life form — a night scene on Avatar‘s planet Pandora. But they also evoke natural phenomena on Earth like bioluminescent sea life or synchronous fireflies. Glowing orbs rise from neuron-like tangles of fiber-optic cable. All those little round heads standing at attention remind me of prairie dogs, or flute-charmed cobras.
The trail runs through truly epic swaths of lights, so you’re surrounded by color and light as you walk the dark path. The flat terrain and tree bulk of the arboretum make it a little hard to see huge expanses of lights except from a handful of more-open spots along the trail. But the glowing lights hovering above meadow grasses, slowly changing hue, are lovely to observe, even in tree-bordered vistas.
And judging by the number of cozied-up couples at tables in the grove, it’s the perfect place for a romantic date night. Field of Light runs through December 30th.
For Fortlandia fans wondering if the Wildflower Center is still having its annual fort display this year (usually held in the arboretum), fear not! It’s set up in the family garden now through January 29. I’ll be visiting soon, as it’s one of my favorite events at the Wildflower Center.
For more Bruce Munro light installation images, visit my post about Munro’s 2015 show at Atlanta Botanical Garden.
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The Oct. 20th Garden Spark talk “Black Flora” by author Teresa Speight is on sale now, and you’re invited! Teri will be sharing stories of pioneering Black florists, floral activists, and flower farmers doing incredible work across the U.S. Her profiles of these unstoppable creatives in Black Flora are uplifting and inspiring; check out my book review for more info. Come join us and meet Teri at her talk and book signing. Seating is limited, and tickets must be purchased in advance.
Come learn about garden design from the experts at Garden Spark! I organize in-person talks by inspiring designers, landscape architects, and authors a few times a year in Austin. These are limited-attendance events that sell out quickly, so join the Garden Spark email list to be notified in advance. Simply click this link and ask to be added. You can find this year’s speaker lineup here.
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