The Museum of Outdoor Arts has been creating immersive art experiences for more than 35 years in its sculpture gardens and indoor galleries. Its new Natura Obscura exhibit takes the concept to another level as “the most innovative indoor environment MOA has produced to date,” said Cynthia Madden Leitner, museum president.
“Immersion is really kind of a cool thing to do now because of Meow Wolf,” Leitner said, referring to the Santa Fe exhibit that popularized immersive art. “But immersion is something people have been paying attention to since Louis XIV’s gardens outside Paris. It’s finding yourself completely covered in sound and smells from all angles.”
Natura Obscura, which Leitner describes as “an artificial version of nature,” opens Friday and runs through April 28 at the museum’s indoor galleries, inside the Englewood Civic Center. It was designed and produced by MOA and Denver-based art event design and production company Prismajic, collaborating with more than 40 artists. Installation began in May and wrapped up around the end of the year.
Part art exhibit and part virtual reality, experiencing Natura Obscura is “like stepping into your favorite painting in which you can hear, smell, touch, and explore everything around you,” says the website naturaobscura.org.
“It’s the largest immersion we’ve ever done. It takes up the entire 7,000-square-foot museum,” Leitner said.
Visitors will wander at their own pace through a surrealist forest, encounter woodland creatures and experience a “custom cloud” sound chamber designed by Grammy-winning sound artist Mickey Houlihan of Boulder. Meant to be felt, seen and heard, the sound chamber — like the full exhibit — is difficult to put into words, Leitner said.
“It’s a beautiful experience. You’re inside this circular environment. There are 14 channels of sound and four projectors, one ahead of you, one on the ceiling and one on each side,” she said.
Expect to spend about 90 minutes in the exhibit and its offshoot galleries. The sound chamber alone takes about 30 minutes, Leitner said.
“I’m excited for the public’s reception. The millennial generation and Generation Z will want to come see it. It’s for children, adults and everybody,” she said. “I think people will come back more than once.”
MICHELLE KARAS, THE GAZETTE, MICHELLE.KARAS@GAZETTE.COM