Light installation exhibit gives Botanical Garden a different glow


“Bruce Munro: Light in the Garden”

Opens Saturday and runs through Oct. 3. 6-11 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays. Special event ticketing (separate from regular Atlanta Botanical Garden admission). Peak nights (Fridays-Saturdays): $22.95, $15.95 ages 3-12. Non-peak (Wednesdays-Thursdays and Sundays): $19.95, $13.95 ages 3-12. Closed during Concerts in the Garden. 1345 Piedmont Ave. N.E., Atlanta. 404-876-5859,



Glass spheres used to create “Forest of Light” installation


Recyclable water bottles used to create “Water-Towers” installation


Recyclable water bottles used to create “Beacon” installation


Man hours required to build the art in the United Kingdom


Volunteer hours needed to support Munro team with installation


Crates and boxes in which the art was packed


Miles of fiber optics used in installations


Light sources used


Designers, technicians and staff required to create art


Months it took to design exhibition


Months it took to build the art in studio


Containers (40 feet each) needed to ship art from U.K. to U.S.

Under the darkening sky, the frosted light bulbs rising from slender stems that fill the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Storza Woods come into focus, looking like an endless crop of candles twinkling on the forest floor.

Or jumbo-sized synapses. Er, make that nebulae. Maybe superhighways as depicted by an aboriginal artist under some cosmic spell. Hmm, how about billions and billions of stars?

Where have you gone, Carl Sagan, when we need you to comprehend what we’re seeing?

Happily, there are no incorrect answers when interpreting what “Forest of Light,” Bruce Munro’s expansive installation of 31,000 flowerlike lights with spherical blooms, evokes.

All anyone who bears witness need agree upon is that it and five other site-specific light installations created by the British light artist, in an exhibition opening a five-month run at the botanical garden Saturday night, are evocative.


For four years, the Midtown attraction has built winter attendance with its unconventional Christmastime light show “Garden Lights, Holiday Nights,” drawing a record 165,000 last year. Now with “Bruce Munro: Light in the Garden,” the Midtown attraction is aglow in an even more artful way for summer and fall, too.

Atlanta Botanical Garden President and CEO Mary Pat Matheson said she was “immediately smitten” when she first experienced Munro’s work at Pennsylvania’s Longwood Gardens in 2012 and pursued the artist to create a show for here.

Matheson projects that 350,000 could be similarly “enchanted” during the exhibit’s five-month run.

That’s ambitious given that “Light in the Garden,” like “Holiday Nights,” requires a separate admission from the one daytime visitors pay.

But it appears very much a show that will generate electric social media buzz, such as the Twitter posts from an Arkansas visitor who, after an exhibit preview this week, put up a video and a photograph with the single-word caption: “Transformative!”

In addition to “Forest of Light” — equally, well, transformative from 40 feet above on the Kendeda Canopy Walk as on the floor of the recently expanded Storza Woods — three other highlights are clustered at the other end of the 40-acre garden.

Beside the Fuqua Conservatory, 20 “Water-Towers” encircle the Aquatic Plant Pond, each 6-foot-tall structure assembled from 216 recycled plastic bottles threaded with fiber optic cables that pulse colored light synchronized to meditative music.

Its subdued jewel tones stand in stark contrast to the saturated, changing hues of the five “Eden Blooms” spheres of flower stems that greet guests in the deep darkness inside the misty conservatory, hanging amid epic aerial roots and “Tarzan”-like tropical foliage.

The path leads into the Fuqua Orchid Center, where a completely new work, “Three Degrees,” a trio of curvaceous towering sculptures cloaked in reflective material and inspired by the Supremes, struts its stuff.

The backstory of how Munro came to create “Three Degrees” gives a revealing glimpse into the unapologetically idiosyncratic mind of its 55-year-old maker.

The artist said he was having dinner with Matheson on an early visit to Atlanta, with glasses of wine helping animate the conversation, when Diana Ross’ music, and, even more so, her sexy stage presence came up. Munro mistakenly got it in his mind that the Detroit songstress was from around these parts and that she was the lead singer of yet another female trio, Philadelphia soulsters the Three Degrees.

“I don’t know how Diana Ross came into the conversation, but I just quickly had this idea of taking an oval (form) and spinning the oval by degrees,” recounted the Brit, a sunny and chatty bloke with an unself-conscious disposition that keeps him from taking himself or his art-making too seriously. “I could see it in my mind: I got this very lovely feminine form. That’s what did it even, though it’s all wrong — she wasn’t a Three Degree!

“But it doesn’t matter,” Munro continued, relishing the tale. “That actually got me going. I remember at 24 listening to her — this was way after her young days and she was going through a rejuvenation. She was a very beautiful woman and very sassy. I remember the sequined dresses and all those curves and I guess my blood just got hot!”

Inspiration has come to the designer in bolts of lightning like that throughout a career that was slow to gain traction but now is going full-throttle.

In 1992, after a decade of varied post-college jobs (gallery worker, painter, cook, bricklayer, aerobics instructor, illustrator, display and sign-maker) in England and Australia, he made a stop during a long Aussie driving adventure at Uluru. The ancient sandstone monolith in the Northern Territory’s Red Centre desert is sacred to indigenous Australians, but Munro wasn’t quite a believer.

“I was going, ‘If another person tells me about Uluru …’ But then it was just an extraordinary feeling. I don’t want to sound like an old hippie, but you got out there and there was energy, electricity coming up through the earth. I promise you, we’d (he and future wife Serena) given all our booze away, so we had had nothing to drink! I remember writing all these things down. I just felt very alive and I wanted to express that.”

It took him another decade to do so, after Munro, now working in lighting design, had purchased Long Knoll, a derelict 16th-century farmhouse in Wiltshire that included a seven-acre field. There, finally, he created his first “Field of Light,” a precursor to a series of similar and ever-growing installations in the U.K. and U.S.

Sitting in a gentle drizzle near his newest and largest iteration of the installation yet during a recent “Light in the Garden” preview, Munro marveled at how a stalled painter fell into an international career of painting with light.

But like Uluru, he reasoned, light exerts an immeasurable power over people.

“It’s so subliminal and it’s part of the core,” Munro said. “If you think about it, we came from light. I’m not a scientist but everything is light based. We see the world through light, so there’s something very poetic about that.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Living

‘Game of Thrones’ actor Peter Dinklage, wife Erica Schmidt celebrate birth of 2nd child
‘Game of Thrones’ actor Peter Dinklage, wife Erica Schmidt celebrate birth of 2nd child

“Game of Thrones” actor Peter Dinklage and his wife, Erica Schmidt, welcomed their second child, Us Weekly reported Friday. It is the second child for the couple. Their daughter was born in 2011, Us Weekly reported. The couple did not publicly confirm the second pregnancy, but Us Weekly confirmed they were spotted with their newborn...
The Eagles review: peaceful, easy feeling at packed Philips Arena for 1st of two shows
The Eagles review: peaceful, easy feeling at packed Philips Arena for 1st of two shows

After a professional, hit-packed two hours and 15 minutes, Vince Gill and Don Henley walk off the stage at Philips Arena October 20, 2017. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ Posted Saturday, October 21, 2017 by RODNEY HO/ on Melissa Ruggieri’s AJC Music Scene blog Last year, after Glenn Frey‘s surprise...
Bathroom makeovers show refreshing ways to use marble
Bathroom makeovers show refreshing ways to use marble

Marble bathrooms have long been a staple of elegant homes. But gone are the days of stark white Carrera marble and boring chrome fixtures. Designers are bucking tradition to add a touch of sophistication in a refreshing way. Using marble in a renovation is a fantastic way to take your old space from gross to glam. Knowing what to do with a space&rsquo...
Why do people give blood after disasters, but not during blood drives?
Why do people give blood after disasters, but not during blood drives?

It happens after very disaster, whether natural or human-made. Before the floods recede or the crime tape is removed, hundreds will line up to donate their blood. Less than 24 hours after the mass shooting in Las Vegas, a line of people twisted from a blood center around several city blocks. According to one woman’s tweet, it took seven hours...
How to control and manage your blood pressure
How to control and manage your blood pressure

Lifestyle changes can help you control and prevent high blood pressure, even if you’re taking blood pressure medication. Here’s what you can do: Eat healthy foods. Eat a healthy diet. Try the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish and low-fat dairy foods. Get...
More Stories