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artofbonsai.org • View topic - The Problem With American Bonsai
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Forum locked This topic is locked, you cannot edit posts or make further replies.  [ 198 posts ]  Go to page Previous  1 ... 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14  Next
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 17, 2007 1:11 pm 
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Brussel Martin said recently in a soon to be released interview, "Most Americans do not know that their bonsai are not up to the standard
of the rest of the bonsai world and usually don't care. Its just a hobby."

Could this be true? Based on many discussions on bonsai forums that I have read and on the continued attempts by quite a few American bonsaists to invaludate any discussion of artistic aspects of bonsai, I am afraid that this indeed may be very true.
But how can we not know our bonsai is not up to the standards of the rest of the world?

Interesting, at the very least.

Will


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I could not aggree with you more! I accept your premise that we are spiraling down through our "GOOD ENOUGH" mediocre acceptance of an inferior out-come. However, I submit the following. I would not by any stretch consider myself "an American who is doing bonsai the same way I do everything else as you say, - half-hearted, half-assed and lacking committment." On the contrary. I am an artist an extremely pasionate student of bonsai for the past 30+ years with a collection of 30+, 100-400 year old collected trees. My opportunities to attend workshops, and conventions with quality show trees is hugely limited and EXPENSIVE. My local club has one annual event in which members are "allowed' to submit one or two trees for show which at best were judged by 2-3 technically proficient members with little true ARTISTIC abilities. Through out the whole of the United States we have some true natioal treasures like Harry and Ben Oki, who live in the far SW - I only wish I lived closer to Southern California.


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My remarks about the paucity of the Good Enough Crowd fall into the "If the Shoe Fits Wear It" category. Of course this does not apply to everyone, but it does apply to enough to have created a problem.


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I was steadfastly refusing to participate in this thread until I saw its spawning ground reprinted in all its glory in Bonsai magazine. I couldn't disagree more with the premise, assumptions, tone, and conclusion of this article.
Its premise: that American bonsai are deficient because a lazy breed of do-nothings fail to give proper respect to their elders and betters, and have "dumbed down" the art to the point of ultimate mediocrity. I say American bonsai has never had a better base to work from. Rob Kempinski and others are in a far better position than I to detail the fantastic and artistic work of so many North American artists who are gathering their own communities and promoting truly artistic bonsai. I have not been able to travel extensively and so visit bonsai masters all over the world, or even all over the country. But I have been exposed to great bonsai. I have worked on them and prepared them for display, and participated in what is arguably the best bonsai exhibit in North America. And this has taught me what photos and articles never could: what makes a great bonsai.
Its assumptions:
A) American bonsai lag far behind European bonsai. No evidence has been offered for this pessimistic, defeatist, and apparently self-loathing view, a view, I might add, that I have heard echoed repeatedly in this bandwidth. Whose bonsai are better? Boon's or Suthin's? Who could possibly care? I don't think Boon or Suthin do. Producers are always thrilled to see another producer. Truly great people recognize greatness in others and are spurred to even greater accomplishment because of it, rejoicing, not trying to overcome.
B) "Several world class masters and gifted amateurs" in Europe "would not exist if it were not for their bonsai communities (sic) desire to excel." Hogwash! Where do those communities come from? Do they spring whole from the mountainside and then elect a master? No, those with exceptional ability and passion naturally draw the like-minded and aspirers to themselves, like moths to the light. The masters make the communities, not the other way around!
C) Arguing that bonsai is not an art is ego driven. Perhaps there is an element of truth there. I would suggest that arguing it is an art has its own share of ego involved. Let him who is without sin...

Its tone: I'm appalled that this article has been held up for reprint in a publication. Its tone is negativity in the extreme, blaming unnamed straw men for all that its writer perceives as wrong with America, bonsai, and his own experience. Americans do everything "half-hearted, half-assed, and lacking commitment." Sir, that is nothing less than an insult. I can't believe you ended your article with it!
I think there is quite a bit that is right with bonsai in North America. Of course I don't think it's all it should be yet, but here are a couple of concrete suggestions that might make it better.
All the so-called "masters," those itinerant bands of nursery stock killers, should get off their high horses and learn some bonsai basics and some bonsai ethics. Quit playing to the mediocrity of "clubs" that want cookie-cutter demos for raffle to members who will kill them. Get into the locals and teach, for goodness' sake!
Every one of you open your eyes to more than one way to enjoy bonsai! If you wish to teach, you should know more than one species. If you want to teach, you should work with more than just collected trees, or just prebonsai stock, or just nursery stock. And if someone prefers to treat their bonsai as a hobby, then, who are you to say that they are wrong? It's their hobby! And as a more pointed aside, the sense of pride that one has never paid more than $XX for a tree is doing as much to spread mediocrity as any whippersnapper who doesn't toe the line.
Move beyond Naka. Teach those you teach to learn better ways to do things, beyond what the local clubs have seen. Learn to wire better. more beautifully, and more effectively. Guy wires only do so much! Encourage your students to use better, more effective soil mixes. And please, please, teach them to feed their trees! In my opinion, horticultural knowledge is truly one of the areas North Americans could improve their bonsai exponentially if they would learn it.
Finally, quit showing all your trees! One real advantage that might be seen from the European point of view, is that Americans seem willing to show almost anything! Compare your trees with the best trees in the world and then you will begin to see how far you may have to go.
The fact is that there are a large and growing number of masters who teach these things on a regular basis, and that's a beautiful thing. I say American bonsai as a culture and art is on the rise.


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PostPosted: Tue May 08, 2007 2:39 pm 
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Beautiful and passionate argument, Chris,
I enjoyed reading it very much.
If for nothing else, Vance's article was worthwile just to stimulate such a response as yours (I am not kidding).
Regards,
Attila


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Chris: Maybe you should write an article about what is right with American Bonsai, rather than "#$%&*@!" about my article and voice a lot of assumptions about what I think, what I do, what I feel and why I feel that way. Of course you are entitled to do just that but lets see the evidence that I am wrong....or maybe the America versus Europe photo contest might at least put a spin on it independent of personal agendas.


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Last edited by Will Heath on Wed May 09, 2007 7:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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I was wondering what people thought now, after seeing the entries in the North American vs Europe Contest?
I personally think both sides will walk away with a slightly changed worldview.

Will


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