This post is about my recent trip to Atlanta Botanical Gardens to visit the Light in the Garden exhibit by Bruce Munro. As a new transplant to Atlanta from Colorado, ABG is my first local membership. Luckily that came in handy for member tickets to the exhibit which I plan to take advantage of again – it was that good!
On Friday evening after dinner at Loca Luna, a tapas restaurant in Amsterdam Walk, I cut through Piedmont Park, taking the elevator in the Botanical Gardens parking garage up to the garden entrance. After being greeted and collecting a chilled glass of Pinot Grigio, I had time to explore the exhibits in the Conservatory and see some of the gardens before nightfall. The evening was particularly humid as the air hung with impending storms.
My usual experience of botanical gardens involves a great degree of plant obsession and photography of combinations, new cultivars and textures. Visiting at night forced me to step back and experience the garden as a whole. The details no longer visible, I was able to garner a strong sense of the layout and the relationship of each space to one another. The experience becomes intuitive and enhanced by Munro’s method of illumination.
Three Degrees is in the Fuqua Orchid Center. Visitors interacted with the reflective quality of these three helical sculptures, but the real draw is the year round display of orchids.
Eden Blooms is located in the Conservatory, which is filled with tropical plants. A series of flower-like or dandelion seed-like sculptures with fiber optic thread slowly changed colors as I walked amongst the green foliage. Recordings of tropical birds accompanied the experience.
The Beacon, which according to ABG’s exhibit guide, contains 2,730 recycled plastic bottles that are attached to a geodesic dome structure with individual fiber optic threads fed into each bottle. The Beacon is situated at the north end of the Great Lawn, affording a view of the Conservatory and the Midtown skyline beyond.
The exhibition coincides with the recent opening of a new garden, the Gardens in Storza Woods. From the Visitor Center, an elevated canopy walk winds through the upper branches of a remnant hardwood forest that includes: tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), maples (Acer spp.), oaks (Quercus spp.), black cherry (Prunus serotina), hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), and American beech (Fagus grandifolia) to name a few. The canopy walk, one of my favorite features of the gardens, terminates in Storza Woods and provides an aerial view of the new garden and the Forest of Light.
Munro’s motives are experiential and it is evident in the layout of his installation. The most spectacular element was the Forest of Light, and is his most recognizable art. Inconsequential during daylight, the frosted glass orbs atop glass stems are connected to black power boxes by strands of fiber optic light. The lights change through a range of colors: blue, green, purple, red, orange, yellow and pink, slowly pulsing as an interconnected web. 30,000 bulbs in all, each grouping when viewed from above, appears as a colorful neuron system. As visitors descend from the canopy into the gardens, the lights on the forest floor enhance the natural topography and “feel” of the forest. Check out this short video by Felipe Barral with Munro’s narrative explaining his work: https://vimeo.com/126488699.
An electric energy of the building storms added to the ambiance, as fireflies twinkled amongst the thousands of fiber optic spheres. It was a wonderful way to experience the gardens illuminated through such an inventive method.
Bruce Munro’s Light in the Garden exhibition is currently open through October 3, 2015 in Atlanta Botanical Garden’s (www.atlantabg.org) 30 acres in Midtown, Atlanta. More information about the artist can be found here: www.brucemunro.co.uk.