Land Art: Bruce Munro’s Garden Lighting at Longwood Gardens

19 September 2012


I. Outdoor Installations

1.”Light” by Bruce Munro, Longwood Gardens, iPhone 4s, September 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

2. “Light” by Bruce Munro, Longwood Gardens, iPhone 4s, September 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

3. “Light” by Bruce Munro, Longwood Gardens, Nikon DSLR, September 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

II. Conservatory Installations

4. “Light” in Conservatory by Bruce Munro, Longwood Gardens, iPhone 4s, September 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

5. “Snowball Chandeliers” in Conservatory by Bruce Munro, Longwood Gardens, Nikon DSLR, September 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

Let me know which is your favorite.


Longwood Gardens has outdone themselves, giving its fans and newcomers a sensational peek into the art of illumination. “Light” by Bruce Munro has created a different way to appreciate the cultivated and nurtured landscape (inside and out). His site-specific installation began June 09, and even with the abundance of summer spectators the popularity of this public art has not waned.

As the date for the show’s closing (September 29) approached, it was time to make the reservation and head to Pennsylvania. On our arrival an additional parking area was already half full, and the anticipation could be read on the visitors’ smiles. As we struggled to mesh with the foot traffic, claustrophobia neared.

Still, we’re ecstatic that swaths of garden aficionados and the curious made their way to this world-renown institution. For my grandson and me the journey was dual purpose: the sheer visual enjoyment of a darken landscape jeweled with lights and the photographic opportunity. Our exuberance for the effects of illumination upon our favorite gardens was mixed with a bit of photographers’ anxiety.

Naturally, nighttime photography has its inborn challenges. To add to the difficulty of shooting in the dark, the crowds made it doubly hard to get the scene desired. So we meandered through the night with the intent to savor the amazement, and accept the limitations of this evening’s photo shoot. Wielding a tripod was tricky, especially in the low lit areas. Our iPhones were called into action and helped our frustration. It was time to just let it be, and enjoy the light artist’s interpretative designs.

Bruce Munro, the British artist and light designer, used his aesthetics and whimsy to illuminate the Conservatory and grounds that are so familiar to frequent visitors. Seven installations were constructed to woo viewers and introduce ideas that revere Mother Nature, and do not intrude upon her. His artistic philosophy matches the horticultural practices of sustainability.

Munro’s work is filled with integrity and reverence for his materials (glass and LED) and the land he alters temporarily. Change and movement are themes that appear in his work, and are mirrored by various colors, shapes and tones of light.

Longwood Gardens offers a year-round program of world-class horticultural exhibitions, but this installation allows a first-time offering: pockets of luminescence that mimics nature and her majesty. Currents of light transform, flower-like stems converge across pockets of grass and meadow, silent shapes speak loudly to us, sparkling waves of pulsing lights gather attention like fireflies in June, and changing colors shower inside and outdoors.

The tranquility of these non-invasive sculptures seem perfectly at home. The transient quality makes for a need to fully engage with this unusual display in the here and now.

We arrived just as the sun had set, and the gradual diminishing light brought a slow steady alteration of the pastoral landscape. As the intensity of the dark grew, the intensity of the effect multiplied. As we strolled through and around the crowds of courteous onlookers, each new sculptural discovery brought silent observation.

When we entered the Conservatory, giant chandeliers with lighted wire streamers and glass balls greeted us. Our gaze was held by the colors that kept changing and giving new vibrance to the entire space.

As a lifelong devotee to the arts and arts education, I am primed by the public’s response to this artist’s work. Munro could be soul mates with Andy Goldsworthy, who is one of the most well-known twenty-first century land artists. Munro and Goldsworthy share  country of origin, sensibilities for honoring nature and human nature, and a philosophy that supports sustainable practices.

While Bruce Munro’s lighting designs at Longwood Gardens is his premier solo exhibition in  the United States, he did participate in a 2010 a group show, which was organized to celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of Guggenheim Museum. Among the artists chosen to exhibit were Andy Goldsworthy and Munro. Bingo–these two Brits joined architects, artists and designers to honor the New York-based museum in “Contemplating the Void: Interventions in the Guggenheim Museum.”

In several of my posts I’ve written about Andy Goldsworthy. You might want to read two of them, because they are my reactions to seeing his work in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco. Click here and here. He is truly one of the most celebrated, dedicated and talented land artists of the twenty-first century.

If you want to learn more about Munro, check his Website here.

Christmas at Holburne Museum, Bruce Munro, UK, 2011

Field of Light, Long Knoll installation, Bruce Munro, UK, 2010

I encourage any of you within the region to make the trip to Longwood Gardens before “Light” closes on September 29 (reservations and tickets required). It’s a visual treat for the senses and sensibilities, but it also heightens one’s adulation for the intersection of nature and human nature: Solidifying that we can work in harmonious partnership.

Note: As always I welcome any comment about this post or any part of my blog. To read more about the Munro’s “Light” installation and Longwood Gardens, click here.

This entry was posted in Gardens and Gardening, Photography, Writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Land Art: Bruce Munro’s Garden Lighting at Longwood Gardens

  1. Val says:

    Curiously for me, I like the black and white one best… it’s like ethereal bubbles!

  2. Pingback: Last chance to see “Light: Installations by Bruce Munro” at Longwood Gardens « My West Chester, PA

  3. Gorgeous!! I was just there for the dahlia show. We had to leave before it got dark, and I was disappointed to miss the snowball chandeliers in particular!

    • Victoria, I’m delighted that you were able to visit a destination with magical floral gifts. Hope that you’ll be able to see Longwood Gardens’ other seasonal exhibitions. Many thanks for your comment.

  4. Amazing formations and light effects. An art that makes you say, “Wow, that’s magical!”

  5. These are fantastic photos!! Well done!

  6. lorna smith says:

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful experience; I particularly liked number four.

    As usual, your post was forwarded to my daughter in Japan, her response to me was “ah, light and love.

    I wish you light and love always as you continue to spread happiness around the world.

  7. Thanks for the introduction to Bruce Munro. I wish you could have taken all of us along for the visit.

    • Well, it would have been my pleasure to have you join us. Munro will be exhibiting his works in Manhattan this year. Maybe more Americans will have an opportunity in the future to be awed by his interpretative installations. Thanks.

  8. Gracie says:

    Wow! These are amazing. I like the first image too. Must be really fun to walk around here at night and see each one glowing.

  9. Robert Rosen says:

    That is all so beautiful. I’ve never seen anything like it.

  10. marialla says:


  11. Northern Narratives says:

    I love the first photo 🙂

  12. LadyBlueRose's Thoughts Into Words says:

    All are beautiful
    but I think my favorite is the Light in the Conservatory
    it looks like a shower of stars to me….beginning to cove the surface of the water…
    Thank you for sharing
    Take Care…

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