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artofbonsai.org • View topic - Ownership and Artistic Credit in Bonsai
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 12:33 am 
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Martin, Andy, Attila, have all given very good answers and insight into this question. Attila went deeply into the issue and hit the nail right on the head...trees from "notable artists" should be well documented and every effort should be made to preserve them.
We don't paint over or change works of art from different periods just because the styles or fads have changed, we preserve them as a record of past art, of history, of the evolution of the art form.
Bonsai should be no different, the works of Naka, Banting, or Larz Anderson should never be changed by one person who thinks the tree could be better, they should never be made into someone else's trees. So what if they could be made better, the point is the shouldn't be changed, they shouldn't be "made better" they should be preserved.
Look at Goshin when it underwent re-potting, great care was taken to document the position of every tree, charts were made, many measurements taken, and many, many photographs were taken as well to assure the piece retained the exact placement the artist set it at originally.
What if some one decided it had one tree too many and took one out or moved a few trees around...? What if someone decided to make it their tree just because the artist has passed away or because they thought they could make it better?
Leave the creating to your own trees, leave the maintaining and preserving history to those who do not feel the need to leave their mark on the trees.
Will

P.S. No, I do not think my question was unfair at all, Al himself brought up that he has worked on large collections and was creating from them, "Keppler Trees."
My inquiry as to if he thought this was a good thing, was directly related to his assertions and was relevant to the discussion at hand. I certainly do not think changing (as opposed to maintaining) a bonsai from a notable artist, that is in a public collection, is a good thing at all.


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Thanks for the vote of confidence Will. I can appreciate your stance on this controversial subject of collection trees. While my long reply might seem long for a web site, it is very short on detail. While you may comprehend my reply, unless you have worked extensively on donated trees you can't possibly comprehend what goes into trying to keep to the original work and keeping a tree moving forward in a manner consistant of its previous look.
"Leave the creating to your own trees, leave the maintaining and preserving history to those who do not feel the need to leave their mark on the trees."
That quote is pretty packed with arrogance and hutzpah! If someone other than the original artists works on a tree for the future, they leave their mark on it whether you like it or not. For better or worse it's what goes into maintaining a collection. I agree with your sentiment and I wish each tree could be a snapshot for a hundred years. Just not going to happen. You have no idea how thankfull we are that we have very few deciduous trees. That would be a whole new can of worms.
I have worked on a tree that came from John Naka, a very full headed elm. It is not very large, maybe a crown as large as 2 feet in diameter and a trunk about 1.5 inches. The tree is maybe 25 inches tall. The tree looks like the day it was recieved. It has had no changes done to it. I can tell you that I have pruned off branches as large as a pencil and the tree requires constant attention due to the fact it is an elm. The branches will grow enormous if given the chance to bolt. As the collection grows it is more and more difficult to keep all the chicks close to mother hen.
Will the tree retain its look for it's entire life, I hope so. Is it totally realistic to expect it to, I think so. Will it happen, time will tell.
I took this quote from your original article starting this thread:
"It is also interesting to note that all the collections such as the national Collection attribute the creation to the artist, when known and not to the following caretakers, no matter what maintenance or changes are made and no matter if the original artist is known or not."
Do you concede that at times changes are made, or have you changed your position on this part?

One other thing for you to ponder and have absolutely no idea about is growing conditions. I think it might be a piece of cake to maintain a collection at your latitude and mean average temperature. Try doing it in a place that has a 10 month growing cycle and can reach temperatures as high as 112 degrees daily for weeks at a time. Just think, if you moved to Fresno next month, you would lose your entire collection inside of a month. Not fun at all. Elms grow all year hear, never go into dormancy. I fertilize all year with my trees, as well as the collection. You have to, considering what we put them thru. Trees here start growing around Feb. 15 and taper off around the end of Nov. They get the month of Dec. and Jan. off, big deal. Doesn't give me much rest either!
I might turn the tables, I was hoping to hear from you also about my inquirey to exchange collections with someone else. It doesn't have to be Vance maybe you could exchange with Candy Shirey. Give you a chance to work on those Lenz trees. Talk about responsibility.
Cheers, Al


Last edited by Al Keppler on Thu Jun 07, 2007 12:55 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Will wrote:
Bonsai should be no different, the works of Naka, Banting, or Larz Anderson should never be changed by one person who thinks the tree could be better, they should never be made into someone else's trees. So what if they could be made better, the point is the shouldn't be changed, they shouldn't be "made better" they should be preserved.
I agree that trees that are purchased to be redesigned or treated as stock should not carry on the growers name as there is no doubt a completed redesign in store. However trees that are purchased to be shown certainly should give credit to the person who created it. If I purchased a Bonsai from Boon, trimmed a few shoots off, added some moss, and polished the pot and then showed it under my name, that borders on the unethical. I can show it, but credit for styling should be given to Boon, it is his art, after all.

This discussion is interesting and stimulating to say the least. In order to fully comprehend the intention of the author we have delved into the depths of the artistic world, and at times it seems we have failed to comprehend the metaphors used. I believe the article can be summed up on ?integrity? and as we know, levels vary with each and every individual.
In discussing, we have gone to the depth of restoration and preservation. Whilst these two points are valid arguments to the discussion, they have led us off track as to the intent of the original question IMO: acquiring a bonsai, designed by someone else, giving it a manicure and claiming said tree as ones own.
As previously mentioned, each artist possesses his/her individual brush strokes and these are not dissimilar to fingerprints, e.g. Walter?s submission in the K of B contest. Although still very much in the early stages of styling, one can see his fingerprints all over this tree. Is this a bad thing? I don?t believe so and, as Walter and I have discussed why would it not be a ?Walter tree? and very much so. As he explained this tree was acquired as pre bonsai stock. Some may disagree with this statement, but who are we to judge without seeing the tree in person. The owner acquired what he thought was a bonsai, only to find out to his dismay that the tree was flawed. Therefore, in the careful hands of a talented artist the true beauty of the tree can be revealed, or as close to humanly possible with the stock at hand. Once the restoration done, (I used the word restoration vice transformation, as it is too early to qualify the work done) will the owner pay Caesar his due? If it were my tree I wouldn?t have any reservations charting its pedigree.
I guess the passion we render in this discussion surrounds the mythical aura of practising bonsai vice owning them. Why would anyone want to own world-class trees just to display them? I guess it becomes just another piece of art like many others, whilst the enthusiast knows the difference, the journey into its creation, different strokes for different folks.
Attila wrote:
I like Al's answer, he brings up a lot of hard decisions that have to be made when working with legacy trees. There are times when, even if you want to keep the tree exactly as it was, you cannot. That's because some branches thicken out of proportion in time, and you have to replace them with others. In this case, you will try to preserve "the spirit" of the work, but you will have to decide on your own what to replace it with
Talented artist, however, have an eye of recognizing the style of the original creator, and so they can adapt the subsequent work on the tree to this original style, in order to preserve the original image. Just an example: if the tree was created, using the clip-and-grow method, with zig-zag branches and stubs at the end of branches left on intentionally, then the resturator should use the same clip-and-grow method and create similar stubs when growing new branches.
If, however, the branches have wavy, lazy curves, the subsequent work should be done accordingly. Observing all the little details, and the overall structure of the tree, one can keep building or maintaining it in the same spirit.

These accurate observations enforce artistic integrity when we talk restoration. As previously mentioned wrt individual brush strokes, museums will quest for handedness when restoring great works of art, as the brush stroke of a right or left handed painter is inherently different. The same applies to wiring whether wired conventionally or via the ?lingnan? method, each produce different results and are not dissimilar to the aforementioned ?handed? observation.
It is true that a bonsai is a dynamic piece of art that continually evolves, but in the hands of a learnt and truly talented artist, the tree can be ?freeze framed? for perpetuity. The latter statement is bold and albeit the tree will undoubtedly change, the spirit will be preserved, not unlike ?Goshin?.
Therefore, when does a tree cease to be one and become the other? IMHO, when all artistic impressions are no longer discernable from the originating artist.


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 Post subject: Ownership of Bonsai
PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2007 12:15 pm 


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Whose tree is it when created by collaboration?
What if I discovered or collected great stock, grew it on for a year or three, studied it and styled it in mind or on paper. A guest artist comes to town so I bring this tree into a workshop. After our visiting artist studies the tree he or she comes up with the same basic style I was considering. After some discussion the artist turns to the next participant and continues around the room till they may make it back to me. This tree will take years to be show worthy.
Do I have to give credit to this artist? He is the headliner, the big name. If I or any other in the same situation had no talent this tree would never be worth mentioning.
What if a Walter walked through your collection and critiqued a few bonsai suggesting some major changes. You followed his suggestions, are they now his creations?
This is an honest question; I am not trying to be a smart a_ _ . What are your thoughts?
Chuck


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