Art Review: ‘Illumine 2019’ at Oakland Cemetery

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Photos by Jacob Nguyen

“Illumine 2019” will light up Oakland Cemetery May 9-12, but grab tickets now because the artful show is selling out quickly. More than 3,000 advance tickets have already been purchased and Saturday is sold out.

Featuring light boxes, giant lanterns, glowing orbs, video installations and spectrally lit trees along a one-mile path, “Illumine” is an ethereal experience that must be viewed once darkness descends. In twilight it doesn’t look like much, but wait for it.

There’s a clandestine air about being in the cemetery after dark, and some might find the experience a little spooky. Put aside any fears because this is a rare experience to savor.

The self-guided tour is the collaborative effort of Historic Oakland Foundation staff, friends, and volunteers, led by the event’s creative director, Cooper Sanchez. The show not only highlights the beauty of Oakland, but also illuminates some of the burial ground’s lesser known history.

The tour bypasses its most famous residents, Bobby Jones and Margaret Mitchell, in favor of contextualizing the final resting places of lesser knowns. A field of lighted markers on the North Public Grounds pays tribute to the individuals buried in unmarked graves, while a pair of lanterns memorializes slaves interred at Oakland.

Other highlights from the tour include the haunting King mausoleum, where strategically placed lights make the stained glass glow, and films projected on the Bell Tower and headstones.

If you’re expecting a laser light show, you might be a little disappointed, but the real power of this too-brief installation is the subtleness of the art and light arrangements. Not to be cliche, but Cooper Sanchez and company truly are presenting Oakland Cemetery like you’ve never seen it before.

For tickets and more information, visit this link.

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