Field of Light
Nov 22–Feb 8 from dusk until 11pm
In 1992, artist Bruce Munro, who had been living in Sydney, Australia for the past eight years and was about to return to his native England, decided to take one final trip through the outback. While walking through the red-sand desert one day with his girlfriend, an idea came to him for a vast field of colored lights, sprouting up from the ground like electric flowers. He scribbled a design and a few notes in his sketchbook and forgot about the concept until a few months later, at his new home studio in the English countryside, when a visitor noticed the sketches hanging on the wall.
“He said, ‘Well, you’ll never do that, it looks far too expensive—how are you going to do something on such a scale?’” according to Munro. “Which was probably a pragmatic approach, but when people say you can’t do something it makes you want to do it.”
He finally brought the vision to life, although it took him over a decade, during which he experimented with sculptures and immersive light installations that recall the work of artists like Dan Flavin, Walter de Maria, and James Turrell. He made shimmering water lilies out of CDs, designed an array of blinking florescent lights learning against each other to form teepees, and hung undulating curtains of LED lights. Most of his installations are site-specific, and have been shown at the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Hermitage Museum and Gardens in Virginia.
Field of Light, which comprises thousands of illuminated fiber optic “flowers,” began small, as a window display for the Harvey Nichols clothing store in England, then gradually expanded through successive iterations in London, Edinburgh, and Mexico City, with each installation re-engineered to meet the specifications of the different sites. Munro’s latest version of the installation will open to public on Saturday at Discovery Green.
The Discovery Green installation will feature 4,500 small glass spheres, supported by short stems linked together by a network of fiber optic cable, lining both sides of the downtown park’s Brown Promenade. Each night at dusk, the spheres will light up in a kaleidoscopic array of flickering colors, turning the park into a field of phosphorescent foliage. It’s the first installation selected by the Discovery Green Conservancy’s newly created fine art committee and will be on display until February 8.
Although Field of Light seems guaranteed to be a favorite destination for Houstonians this holiday season, Munro said the project is far more than a display of pretty lights. “It’s about connection,” he said. “I’m interested in the way you feel when you’re not actually focusing your attention on any one thing, but you feel a part of everything. These are feelings that everybody has, and all I’ve tried to do is create pieces of work that bring back the essence of a place and time. Whether they do that for other people, I can’t say, but there’s always something about them that people seem to connect with.”