The stars have fallen on Discovery Green, courtesy of British artist Bruce Munro and his Field of Light installation of illuminated fiber optics. Living in the nation's fourth largest city, light pollution has made it impossible to see the more than 2,500 stars visible to the human eye, but for just a few more weeks we can see something almost as fantastic in the 4,550 radiant, frosted glass spheres along the Brown Promenade of this downtown park.
Mounted on springs and waving in the wind, the lights wax and wane like fireflies, with bright lines of illuminated fiber optic trailing back to the energy sources.
Munro, who conceived the idea in 1992 while journeying through Australia's Red Desert, was inspired by the "energy, heat and brightness of the desert landscape." Since then, he has installed similar pieces internationally, but always tailored to the geography of the site. For example, his 2013 work at Waddesdon Manor, UK arranged the lights in a long stream of large circles flanked by trees. Other installations were arranged along the waterfront, such as 2012's Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania and last year's work at Hermitage Museum and Gardens in Norfolk, Virginia.
Taking more than 200 hours and six days to install, the exhibit at Discovery Green is arranged in two long rows, each consisting of smaller square-shaped segments. All of the lights within any one segment will pulse with the same set of colors, but at various heights and arranged organically with the landscape, sheltered by our hundred-year-old oak trees. The spheres glow from within, and emit colors almost hard to describe: purple-white, rose-peach, white-pink and white-lemon-yellow, as well as saturated purples, blues and greens.
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To see it in person, and how you experience it, depends on your age and the time of day. Children yell out the colors as they change and, in spite of the rules against touching, feel compelled to reach out. Extended families enjoy a meal on the raised deck, which was just installed last spring and constructed from eco-friendly Brazilian Ipe wood. Lovers stroll along the promenade arm in arm, echoing behaviors from long ago, albeit updated by technology. Adults sit on benches or walk the path, and stop to take selfies against the colored lights. Be sure to hashtag your posts: #dgFieldofLight. By day, viewers notice the random placement of the bulbs behind the roped barriers, with a slight sadness for those that have been knocked off their stems. By night, the fiber optic cables feeding the lights glow hot white; the overall effect is similar to James Cameron's Avatar, where "the trees and plant life of Pandora have formed electrochemical connections between their roots...."
Discovery Green, which opened in 2008, has won numerous awards for its architecture and design. It recently established a fine art committee, and Munro's installation is their first selection. Field of Light was installed in November, so its days are almost over. Before traveling downtown to experience it, visit the park's website and pair your visit with one of the other scheduled offerings, such as Bank of America Friday Night Flicks (February 6), Houston Creole Heritage Festival (February 7), FROSTIVAL! (February 8), Orbit Slams (February 13), or Discovery Green Flea presented by Green Mountain Energy (February 21).
Field of Light shows best after dusk and continues through February 22, at Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney, open daily, 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., discoverygreen.com/fieldoflight.