It was an arctic purple Thursday night in Chanhassen as we pulled towards the lines of cars waiting to have their tickets checked at the gates of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Each tail light glowed as if to imitate an exhibition at this very same event. Eventually we made our way to a congested and bustling parking lot full of winter-clad families donning their warmest plaid jackets, fleece mittens, and wool earmuffs. I immediately regretted underdressing. If you do choose to attend Bruce Munro’s Winter Light Show, which is absolutely worth a visit, err on the side of caution and dress for a walk in the cold.
We entered the Great Hall to scan our tickets and receive our wristbands. It was impossible to tell if the families clamoring about determined to stay warm were at the beginning or the end of their tour, but it was clear they were fed up with being chilly. It is not at once obvious that Munro had installed his piece Chindi into the ceiling there but once you do you would see the installation’s clean and motion-filled lines joining together, one of Munro’s calling cards, it’s clear that Munro intentionally placed Chindi above us to remind us that we are now entering Munro’s very own immersive mind.
My personal favorite is his work Reflections. It was calming and entrancing. Once I walked in I was hooked immediately, drawn to a table that resembles a giant kaleidoscope. The room containing Reflections was entirely barren save for nine perfectly placed round tables. Nine projectors on the ceiling illuminated each tabletop to create a kinetic gallery of morphing light shows set to earthy and cultural tones. This is how a master of light displays photography, with an eye for skirting convention in favor of creating an absorbing whole.
In contrast to the less conventional indoor pieces, the outdoor exhibits invoke a more classic winter wonderland sense. First, you are greeted by The Good Seed, a conglomerate of Victorian-era lampposts welded together to create a huge, industrial yet elegant version of a dandelion. When standing at The Good Seed (or driving down Highway 5), you can see the Rhadamanthine Club exhibit. Bales of hay purposefully wrapped in vinyl and lit with lights to resemble owl eyes, with moon cycles placed to form one full circle.
Beyond that, tucked deep in a plot of sugar maples I found Minnesota Gathering, a dazzling tribute to the trees that hide it. This may be the show’s best kept secret, as this particular light installation was inspired from the very plot of forested land that it sits on. I found it to be one of the most interesting installations because it merges the wooded landscape with mixed media to capture the past, present and future, so make the cold journey down the path past the popular color-changing Water Towers and Oreum exhibits quickly – and don’t forget your layers! If, like me, you did, you can view Oreum from above from inside the cafe. From there you will get a much better look at Munro’s intent to capture the essence of the wind howling along the exterior corridors by utilizing small, expansive and multi-lighted posts.
Once you’ve ventured back indoors into the old Snyder building, you can watch some, or all, of a biographical video that gives some background and context on Bruce Munro and his work. Here you will learn about the construction of such a massive installation and see some of the influences he’s pulled from. A very educational end to a beautiful and sensory filled journey. I would expect nothing less from an exhibit at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum!
Bruce Munro’s Winter Light Show runs every Thurs-Sun until March 31st from 5PM-9PM. Tickets are $17 per adult ($15 per adult w/membership) and $12 per child (free under the age of 3).
by Samantha Koshiol