Exclusive: Bright art installation will fill 16 acres at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Bruce Munro needs to find his cowboy hat.
The British artist wants to look the part when he gets to Texas later this year. An art installation by Munro, called "Field of Light," will open at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on Sept. 9.
The installation will be spread over 16 acres at the center's Arboretum and will include 28,000 solar-powered, glass spheres that will light up in color as the sun goes down.
The installation will run through December. Tickets will go on sale in July. Prices have not been announced.
"I've just realized that one of my team nicked my (cowboy) hat and they never gave it back," Munro told us recently, explaining that he collects hats from his travels. "I'm definitely going to need that. I'm just going to put that down as a note to self: Where's my hat?"
The installation came together after Sam Elkin, C3 Presents' director of operations for partnerships, visited Munro's installations "Field of Light" and "Light Towers" in Paso Robles, California, at the beginning of the pandemic.
"I instantly loved it," Elkin said.
He reached out to Munro's team on a whim to see if they could bring "Field of Light" to Austin. The Wildflower Center was the first place Elkin looked for hosting the installation, and he knew right away that it was the best spot for the work.
Because of the pandemic, Munro has not yet been to Austin. All the planning and prep has mostly been over Zoom, which has been hard for Munro.
But Texas is not totally alien to the artist — Munro has shown his work in Lubbock and Houston. He's also visited Dallas.
"Field of Light" was born over a decade. The idea first began to bloom when Munro visited Australia some 30 years ago. He was struck by the flat and very red desert landscape.
"When we were traveling there, there was this sense, without sounding like an old hippie, but it felt like there was a kind of energy in the air. You get that sometimes in deserts. You get the feeling that just underneath the soil, there's this vibrancy, this lifeforce going on. It stayed with me for so long," Munro said.
He kept thinking of ways to describe how he felt. In 2002, he decided to try to create the thought he'd had in the back of his head for 10 years.
Munro put 15,000 stems of light in a field outside his studio. People walking by during the day were told to come back at night to see the lights. They did.
"And the rest is history. We had people coming up wanting to see it. Then, eventually, a couple of museums got in touch with me. It was very organic," Munro said.
While Austin's "Field of Light" will be similar to Munro's other works by the same name, it will be different because the work changes depending on landscape and season. Munro is also conscientious of the environments he works in.
"I never want to go out into landscapes and over light. The installation is very gentle, with the amount of light you see. Because if you've got a very lovely evening and the stars are out, you want it to still be possible to see the stars," he said.
Munro hopes "Field of Light" will bring some joy.
"The relevance of this installation, and I mean this really deep down, is that we are in a time where the world is in a load of (expletive) at the moment with COVID and the war in Ukraine. I'm a really strong believer that art is a way to decompress people and allow people to connect with the beauty, not only of the natural world, but artworks," he said.
"If we can give people a really happy, heartfelt experience at the Wildflower Center, then I will be thrilled.