‘Natura Obscura’ offers journey to dream forest

Englewood museum gallery becomes magical landscape

Posted 1/15/19

Immersive art experiences are happening across the nation these days and we are fortunate to have an absolutely delightful art-surround experience, “Natura Obscura,” awaiting us at the Museum of …

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‘Natura Obscura’ offers journey to dream forest

Englewood museum gallery becomes magical landscape

Posted

Immersive art experiences are happening across the nation these days and we are fortunate to have an absolutely delightful art-surround experience, “Natura Obscura,” awaiting us at the Museum of Outdoor Arts in Englewood.

Opened on Jan. 11, this magic forest will surround visitors through April 28 with 25,000 square feet of surreal surroundings. Enter equipped with a special flashlight, found at the entry. It reveals secret messages in the paths, as well as glowing trees, shrubs, grasses and flowering plants, surround rocks, stumps, and pathways that are home to numerous charming little creatures the visitor must seek out. Many have interactive capacities and will glow when the flashlight finds them.

Visitors are urged to go to the app store on their phone and download the “Natura Obscura” app — or there may be loaner devices at the entrance with the flashlights. More secret messages await!

About 42 artists have been involved, according to Tim Vacca of MOA, in growing this astonishing forest from the floor of the MOA gallery. The collaboration began early last year in conversations about nature between MOA staff and Prismajic’s Jennifer Mosquera and Eric Jaenike, resulting in a 400-square-foot model that eventually entered artistic brains and flowed out through fingertips.

Students in MOA’s great summer internship program, “Design and Build,” worked with master artist Mosquera through the summer, expanding on the initial vision she had developed with MOA. (All materials had to be readily available at Lowe’s, etc.)

Other local artists were commissioned to create parts of the scene, such as “Simulacra Vision” by Nicole Banowetz and Chris Bagley.

Trees, shrubs and vines grew, owls and other birds took wing and a series of inflatable creatures crept into the scene. Strange sounds were recorded and added life to the imaginary forest, and theatrical lighting added its magic as opening date grew near. (Remember to shine that little flashlight over the underbrush — here again the detailed touches are everywhere.) The light will also unearth messages for the visitor at the edges of walkways

Stroll through the entrance and move slowly, looking for special messages and pint-sized forest critters. Pause to sit on a pair of huge tree stumps as a video tale unfolds on a screen — and watch for the yeti mentioned at the entrance. A benevolent-looking owl flies in and out in a grove where a large swing awaits. Look for pictures of small creatures in grasses and on small stumps — they may be ready to interact and deliver a message via your activated device!

Continue through curtains into another scene and sound … and a story about owls.

Adventurers will want to visit the Sound Gallery at the back to enjoy a surround vision, set to music: “From Canyon to Cosmos: A Monk’s Dream.”

Also in a rear gallery: “Synthetic Nature,” by three Design and Build alumni. (Push down on those tubes.)

We’re told a pair of artists were still finishing up at 5 a.m. on the day when “Natura Obscura” opened to the press for a preview later in the morning. The attention to detail throughout is exceptional.

Difficult to describe accurately, but I’d urge readers to take time out to enjoy this bit of fantasy while it’s here. (Not really appropriate for young children, as some items appear fragile and running and jumping activities are out. It’s more of a tiptoe environment and calming for the adult who once loved fairy tales!)

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