This September, London-born large-scale light artist Bruce Munro illuminates the Central Texas landscape. Field of Light, an installation of 28,000 solar-powered glowing orbs, converts a 16-acre field at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center into a pulsing multicolored wonderland. As the sun sets and the sky darkens, the stemmed orbs shine brighter; walking among them is like gliding through a phosphorescent sea. The orbs converse with the natural elements around them: the stately live oak trees, the Hill Country grasses, the just-emerging stars and rising moon. It’s a Texas field as you’ve never seen it before.
“Nature does tend to wake us up,” says Munro, whose long relationship with the oceanside cliffs of his childhood home near Devon, England, was an early catalyst for his work. “You look outwards and inwards at the same time. It’s really almost like saying, ‘Look at the beauty of nature, look at the beauty of the sun setting, listen to the moment.’ There are those aha moments when you become very connected to the landscape.”
Munro has been generating light-infused immersive spectacles and sculptures in cathedrals, English manors, museums, parks, and remote landscapes across the globe since the early 2000s. He has installed previous Field of Light exhibitions worldwide—Denmark, Mexico City, Paso Robles, Edinburgh, and many locales in the United Kingdom and United States, each tailored to the unique topography of the setting.
Munro’s early vision for the first Field of Light was sparked by a journey to the desert of Uluru in the Northern Territories of Australia with his then fiancee (now wife), Serena, in 1992. “[T]he amazing landscape of the Red Center really got into my head and heart and I just had to some way express how I felt about that,” he once said about the experience. That vision, as it is now expressed at the Lady Bird Wildflower Center in South Austin, is an immersive experience where guests can wend their way along a gravel path through the bobbing orbs. It’s a merging of the terrestrial with celestial, as if a Central Texas pasture melded with the aurora borealis.
The prime mover for the installation’s arrival in Austin was Sam Elkin, director of brand partnerships at C3 Presents, the local concert promotion company that launched the Austin City Limits Festival in 2002 and now produces music festivals globally. Elkin visited the Field of Light installation in Paso Robles, California, during the early days of the COVID pandemic and was so moved that he worked to bring Austin its own Field of Light. He found the ideal spot at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
“It’s always a joy to go see installations in their new settings,” Munro says. “With this one in Austin, it’s a double whammy: The natural beauty of the Wildflower Center is quite overwhelming, plus you meet a lot of lovely people. It’s a huge amount of work that has gone into this for everybody. Over 200 people volunteered just on the installation—I think that might be a record. So it just shows how much love people have for this garden.”
An artist who prioritizes the way that art and nature can bring people together, Munro is quick to emphasize the collaborative nature of his installations. “It’s not just one person. It’s thousands of us who’ve made this happen,” he says.
Field of Light opens Sept. 9 and runs through December at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Information and tickets can be found here.