July 23, 2019

Four Valley art organizations are bringing a British artist known for his grand, dreamlike light sculptures to the Valley.

Bruce Munro, who dazzled with his world-traveled work “Field of Light,” is bringing his work to Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden and Lisa Sette Gallery, the Scottsdale Waterfront canal and the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

The collaboration for a single artist among Valley arts institutions is unprecedented in the Valley.

Exhibitors of his work hope the overlapping and complementary exhibits, which Munro has dubbed “Desert Radiance,” will attract crossover audiences.

Efforts to bring Munro to the Phoenix area started two years ago after Munro lost a bid to produce a permanent work for Scottsdale Public Art. The public art advisory panel was nonetheless impressed by his work, which tends to be a people magnet. Among the most well-known is “Field of Light,” which shows a magical crop of thousands of colorful flowerlike lights rising from the Earth’s floor.

Meanwhile, the then-director of the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art was looking to do a piece around light. The Desert Botanical Garden knew the success of pairing art and desert landscape after the wildly successful Dale Chihuly exhibits in 2008 and 2013. And the high-end contemporary Lisa Sette Gallery will feature some of the artist’s never-seen-before works.

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While a first for the Valley, the exhibits are also a first for the British artist, who has never done a public art piece nor a gallery exhibit.

Though his studio sits amid lush green countryside about 110 miles west of London, Munro has experience with the desert. “Field of Light” sprung from his imagination after watching flowers bloom in the Australian red desert after a rain more than two decades ago.

“People think of the desert as this barren place,” Munro said. “There is a huge amount of light in them and I love that idea that when it rains there, everything speeds up and there is this expression of life.”

Munro has shown his works in Mexico City, all over the United Kingdom, including the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Netherlands.

While all of his Valley works fall under the desert umbrella and play with light, they vary in size.

The largest works will be at Desert Botanical Garden and the Scottsdale Waterfront. Both installations occur in November.

The Desert Botanical Garden works will feature Munro’s interpretation of the Sonoran Desert. Highlights include “Water-Towers”: Sixty-nine individual towers will be staggered around the the garden’s iconic saguaros. The garden’s version of “Field of Light” includes more than 30,000 individual spheres meant to depict the land mass of nearby Papago Butte. Another work, “Chindi,” or the Navajo word for dust devil, is comprised of three prismatic, suspended spirals.

“They’re allowing me to push the scale out, which is really exciting,” Munro said of the large pieces.

Munro’s “Blooms” will be a primary attraction in Scottsdale Public Art’s upcoming, annual art event called Canal Convergence. Installed in early November, “Blooms” will feature seven floating platforms in the Scottsdale Waterfront canal, which is southwest of Scottsdale and Camelback roads. Each flotilla will carry 100 “fishing” rods, illuminated and multicolored at night.

Munro was intrigued that in some parts of the canal, though not the Scottsdale Waterfront, people could catch and release the White Amur fish that are imported from China by Salt River Project to clean the canals.

Over the past four years, Scottsdale Public Art has partnered with SRP to stage some large-scale works in the canal designed to draw attention to the canal system and the Scottsdale Waterfront businesses.

Munro’s work fits with the theme because it references the canal and will be a visual draw.

The publicly funded exhibit costs $65,000.

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art is the first to debut Munro’s work with its “Ferryman’s Crossing.” On Oct. 3, museum visitors can view the work inspired by Hermann Hesse’s novel “Siddhartha,” a story of one man’s spiritual journey. For the artwork, Munro transcribed a passage from the book into Morse code. Morse code serves as an alphabet by using short and long flashes of light or sound. In the exhibit, pulses of light shimmer across the reflective surface of about 9,000 recycled compact discs, making it appear as if sunlight is bouncing off flowing water.

“What is interesting with this piece is that it is in a controlled space,” said Sara Cochran, the exhibit’s curator. “It’s a sort of alchemy and he’s conjuring something with a very, very simple, everyday component. And nature isn’t there to act as an inspiring partner with him.”

The 56-year-old artist is sought after by public gardens and private institutions around the world for the giant light displays that people instantly “get,” no lengthy descriptions required. He created “Field of Light” in 2004 in his own yard to please himself and was surprised that other people appreciated it.

His smaller-scale works at SMoCA and the Lisa Sette Gallery allow him to continue working with light but also to marry it with his other interests, which more recently have trended toward Morse code, which he sees as the language of light.

“I’m very much interested in it and it’s the kind of thing that could go on for years,” he said, having learned to trust that maybe what he finds interesting, other people will, too.

Lisa Sette Gallery’s “The Ferryman’s Crossing II” is a continuation of his investigation into Hesse’s work. Also on display is “Eden Blooms,” a suspended sculpture that’s a smaller-scale version of one on display at Desert Botanical Garden.

“This is a very, very important opportunity to me,” Munro said. “People will be able to see the whole range of my work with my studio and hopefully it will strike the right balance with people there.”

See Bruce Munro’s “Desert Radience” series

“Bruce Munro: Ferryman’s Crossing” 

What: Inspired by Hermann Hesse’s novel “Siddhartha,” a story of one man’s spiritual journey, Munro transcribes a passage from the book into Morse code. Gentle pulses of light shimmer across the reflective surface of recycled compact discs, evoking sunlight bouncing off the surface of flowing water

When: Through April 24, 2016

Where: Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, 7374 E. Second St., Scottsdale.

Tickets: $7 for adults; $5 for students; free for children 15 and younger, free all day Thursdays, and Fridays and Saturdays after 5:00 p.m.


“Bruce Munro: Sonoran Light at Desert Botanical Garden”

What: Eight large-scale light-based installations using an inventive array of materials, and hundreds of miles of glowing fiber optics. Located throughout the garden, Munro’s site-specific exhibition will reflect his personal interpretation of the Sonoran Desert.

When: Nov. 20-May 8.

Where: Desert Botanical Garden, 1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix.

Tickets: Nighttime general admission tickets are $25 adults, $12.50 for children ages 3-12. Day/night passes are $30 adults, $15 children, children under 3 admitted free.


“Bruce Munro: “Blooms”

What: Scottsdale Public Art presents a flotilla of blooming ethereal light structures in the canal with seven circular arrays of multicolored “fishing” rods, illuminated at night. 

When: November-March 2016.

Where: The Scottsdale Waterfront, 4420 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale

Tickets: Free


“Bruce Munro: Ferryman’s Crossing II”

What: New, small-scale works, including digital light projections and suspended artworks. This is the first gallery showing of pieces from the artist’s “Language and Light” series, which incorporates light translated into Morse code.

When: Nov.7-Jan. 2.

Where: Lisa Sette Gallery, 210 E. Catalina Drive, Phoenix.

Tickets: Free.


Article by AZ Central