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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Thu Jan 25, 2007 12:58 pm 
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John Dixon wrote:
A truly AMERICAN bonsai is native, at least to me. The material lives its entire life on and above the soil of the U.S.

I think we are talking here about American bonsai as work of art, and not American bonsai as origin of the raw material. So, it doesn't have to be grown entirely in the US.
If you get Japanese raw material and syle it here by an American artist, that's American bonsai.
To answer your question about importing 100 of the best trees in the US: Yes, that will make the US number one, but with a few conditions. One condition is that those trees need to be kept in this country for a long time, meaning at least 20 years. And the second condition is that those top imported trees should be in the same top condition after those 20 years.
If a person is able to keep a world class tree in the same top condition for decades, that person has proven the highest level of expertise in working with world-class bonsai.
This is one issue that Kimura recently talked about: he was saying that some rich Chinese collectors import top trees from all around the world in China (yes, they import, not export), but the problem is that there are not enough good artists in China to maintain those trees. So the result is that they gradually decline in quality over the years.
It is important to mention here that it take a top artist to create a world-class tree, but it also take a top artist to keep up its quality for a long time. As we know, from time to time these trees need a major overhaul, and only the best of the best are able to do that consistently.
There is a prevailing thought that only the creation of a tree comes from an artist, and maintenance is a slam dunk, but I think this is completely wrong. Maintaining high quality bonsai is not the same as maintaining antique furniture. That's why the top artists in Japan make their living from maintaining and overhauling the trees in their clients' collection year after year.


Last edited by Attila Soos on Thu Jan 25, 2007 2:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 25, 2007 1:54 pm 
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Attila,
Lots of valid points there.
I see your position on the subject of what constitutes American Bonsai, and while I respect it, I don't agree with it.
If one aspect of the equation is different; bonsai material source, artist's nationality, and bonsai location, then I don't know it qualifies. I'm not saying you are wrong, but I need more proof of your stance. Probably a good starting point is what qualifies as a Japanese bonsai, a European bonsai, or whatever. How many of them satisfy all three criteria I have mentioned? How many don't? What is the consensus of this in our countries? We need to solidify a standardized guideline on this or the rest of the discussion will not be very productive in a general sense.
This subject could become very comprehensive, thorough, and even exasperating, but I feel it is important to do it right. Of course, it is the Internet, so instant answers seem to be what most expect.
We're above that. Bonsaists should have an appreciation of patience. Part of that is doing things the right way, instead of the fast way. Right now, we seem to be putting a band-aid on the finger of a man with a massive head wound. We need to step back, take a deep breath, and run through a triage procedure. That means we need to identify the subject before we try to improve it.
What are others feelings on the subject of American Bonsai? We need a definition here, IMHO.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 25, 2007 2:43 pm 
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I am not going to define American bonsai, but I can do European bonsai:
It has to meet these criteria:
- in Europe since several years, like 5 years at least
- best is European species, but any other origin will also qualify
- best is virgin styling in Europe by a European, but raw material or semi-finished material that was imported will also do
- styled by a European is preferred
some tricky configurations: a Japanese master has styled a European species in Europe. Is this a European tree?
Well, these are my private criteria to be sure.
Back to American bonsai. How about if I had a Rock Mountain Juniper in America and I was working on it since years right there. Is this an American tree?
How about if I had the same tree here in Europe. American or European tree?
How about if I sold this juniper to an American and he continued with it. American tree?
How about if I sold it to him but continued to work on it myself?
Too theoretical? It happens all the time.
Does it matter? Not much really. But it might well matter in case of a contest. In case of a judged show where prices are given to the best American trees. This will cause some confusion. I look forward to it.
How about Boon or Colin or Suthin. American? How about a tree that Suthin or Boon had styled in America BEFORE he became American. Hilarious!
Fun
Walter


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jan 25, 2007 3:05 pm 
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There have been a number of interesting comments made here - if I replicate something that has already been posted, I apologize - I skimmed most but did not read all posts closely.
First, a number of the comments made in the original article are overly broad. While making generalizations may stimulate responses, making statements about the entire 'educational system' or 'all sports' or 'American bonsai' is intellectually suspect. None of these endeavors represent a single-minded monolithic view of doing things. Generalizations lose sight of the diversity and excellence that's out there.
I have never met an American bonsai enthusiast who aspires to create mediocre trees. I think most people with a few trees do the best they can considering they may not have access to quality instruction. In Europe, you can take a day trip and potentially visit several major cities in several countries. For decades, a bonsai neophyte in Europe has enjoyed access to critical masses of creative talent - visiting bonsai collections in national collections or at public gardens have always been a short train ride away. That has not been an option for most Americans.
There are large portions of the United States where, even today, there are few if any Bonsai clubs, gardens, or nurseries. I would suggest that growth in America bonsai has been slowed by the fact that we are so spread out. Are Americans satisfied with second-rate trees? NO WAY! But individuals and groups have been working in relative obscurity. Certainly, there are plenty of excellent clubs out there - on the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts as well as across the heart of the country - and some of those clubs have distinguished histories. But contact between many clubs has been modest until recently. Why? Well, you can't take a day-trip from Washington, D.C., to Miami, to Seattle.
The internet has changed that - and the impact has been especially profound for the United States. The extent to which we can communicate and share ideas allows individual bonsai artists as well as small groups to participate in a larger community and no longer feel isolated. Internet access to sites like this are setting the stage for bonsai in America to come into its own.
I had never heard of Nick Lenz or Walter Pall until I found their work on the internet. and gentlemen, I would like to offer a heartfelt 'Thank you' - I feel liberated by seeing your work. I do not feel so constrained to follow the rigid rules laid down by tradition. It's okay to express my self, too! Thanks to all those who contribute to this site as well. Everytime I visit - I learn something new.
One of these days, I'll have a few trees that I will be comfortable showing - just because I am not obsessed with competition or showing my trees, does not mean I am satisfied with mediocrity....it just means my creative endeavors are personal and shared with close friends.
If I now work in relative isolation, it is by choice - but I'm much better informed than previous generations!


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 Post subject: American Mediocrity
PostPosted: Thu Jan 25, 2007 4:12 pm 
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Hello all, I think this is an excellent artlicle and points out a major problem in our society. Being from the "Instant Gratification Generation" myself (age 24), I have participated in this type of cultural norm and find it to be a major hinderance to the progress of our society. Don't get me started on our world academic rating compared to our GNP. I think that Europe may have a leg up on us due to a greater appreciation for the arts and quality workmanship. One thing that I have noticed is that people in Europe value the amout of space they have to live in; which may lead them to concentrate more on the apperance and quality of their bonsai. Perhaps the availability of yamadori such as mugo pine in the Alps and old English yews does help to Europeans out a little bit. Having collected material of high caliber does take a few years off the process of fashioning a masterpiece. This is not to say that native material in the U. S. of great beauty doesn't exist, but perhaps we need more native yamadori to be placed in the proper capable hands. Dorothy made a good point earlier about the Italians and the importance they place on the merit of bonsai students. Atilla made a great point as well about more stringent judging at shows. I have seen countless "bonsai" at shows that didn't deserve to be in a bonsai pot. I personally will only show a tree of mine if I feel its' progression towards a quality tree is far along enough to merit showing it off. I feel that dividing shows up by skill level would help raise the bar a little. If there was ever a site to raise the bar of artistic merit, I feel it is this site. Back to the problem at hand. Cookie-cutter two-year-old rooted juniper cuttings in bonsai pots should be outlawed. I feel this type of product really hurts the prospects of potential bonsai enthusiasts. In another post by Atilla on this site, the topic of we the bonsai enthusiasts are the problem was addressed. Maybe, all the bonsai artists of the U.S. need to have a more unified affiliation to aid in the progression of quality enforcement and a better world merit for bonsai. I feel that this country can produce world-class masterpieces (and maintain them) in the proper hands. I don't know if anyone else has mentioned this, but is it possible that there haven't been enough generations of bonsai enthusiasts to pass on the knowledge of bonsai training? Yes, we have a 10-year jump start on Europe, but have they had a greater amount of correspondance with the Far East. I'd love to know the answer to that one.


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Fri Jan 26, 2007 8:34 am 
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Walter Pall wrote:
I am not going to define American bonsai, but I can do European bonsai:
It has to meet these criteria:
- in Europe since several years, like 5 years at least
- best is European species, but any other origin will also qualify
- best is virgin styling in Europe by a European, but raw material or semi-finished material that was imported will also do
- styled by a European is preferred
some tricky configurations: a Japanese master has styled a European species in Europe. Is this a European tree?
Well, these are my private criteria to be sure.
Back to American bonsai. How about if I had a Rock Mountain Juniper in America and I was working on it since years right there. Is this an American tree?
How about if I had the same tree here in Europe. American or European tree?
How about if I sold this juniper to an American and he continued with it. American tree?
How about if I sold it to him but continued to work on it myself?
Too theoretical? It happens all the time.
Does it matter? Not much really. But it might well matter in case of a contest. In case of a judged show where prices are given to the best American trees. This will cause some confusion. I look forward to it.
How about Boon or Colin or Suthin. American? How about a tree that Suthin or Boon had styled in America BEFORE he became American. Hilarious!
Fun
Walter

Walter,
Nice info on what defines European Bonsai. The exceptions and modifications you mention (both seriously and in jest), are nonetheless valid to this thread. Where does the wheel stop? We are perpetuating the cycle yet again.
I like how you included the word "Fun". That should be a goal for all of us in bonsai. Without the fun, bonsai would not be so attractive to us. These discussions are one part in the big "FUN" puzzle that we know as bonsai.
As far as hilarious goes, that's my take too. It's great to be able to come to a public forum, disagree on some points, and have a good time doing it. Humility. An attribute we all should possess.
Great discussion.
John


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Jan 28, 2007 11:32 am 
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Mark: Why do you think because you disagree that you are going to be come after by those who disagree with you? Perhaps it is not so much that you disagree but that you are disagreeable? Your attitude does your argument more harm than the argument, which has merit. This was not meant to be a one-sided-you-had-better-agree-with-me article. It was designed to stimulate debate not a fight.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jan 29, 2007 4:25 pm 
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Returning once more to the core premis of this article, comparing the state of the Art of bonsai in America and Europe. It was my intent to compare the artistry not the material. In the long run material means little or nothing if the artist does not know what to do with it, or how to maintain it. It is really the state of artistry in America that is lagging behind Europe.
As has been pointed out this is a generality, but it is a generality based on visual observation of available sources. I don't think much more can be required in research of this kind than to look at what's out there and comment. If any of you feel this is not so I would love to be proved wrong. Please post pictures. I love my country and I love bonsai but I am also a realist and I try not to live in a fantasy world where things are what I say or imagine them to be.


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Mon Jan 29, 2007 9:20 pm 
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Vance Wood wrote:
Returning once more to the core premis of this article, comparing the state of the Art of bonsai in America and Europe. It was my intent to compare the artistry not the material. In the long run material means little or nothing if the artist does not know what to do with it, or how to maintain it. It is really the state of artistry in America that is lagging behind Europe.
As has been pointed out this is a generality, but it is a generality based on visual observation of available sources. I don't think much more can be required in research of this kind than to look at what's out there and comment. If any of you feel this is not so I would love to be proved wrong. Please post pictures.

Hi Vance, in comparing artistry I'm assuming you mean post photos of trees depicting artistry. I think I'd like to start by posting a style of tree unique to the tropical areas - a banyan Ficus Nerifolia by great American artist Jim Smith of Vero Beach, Florida. Photo by April Cohen
The second is a Buttonwood by Alan Keifer, Florida. Photo by Alan.
Leaving the tropics how about a Larch by Nick Lenz.
Or consider this Japanese Black Pine by Mike Perkins of Saint Louis. Mike is one of those great American artists that doesn't publicize his fantastic collection - one of the nicest I have seen and a great garden too.
These are 4 photos of trees I found on my hard drive. They range from the tropics to the north. Two professionals and two amateurs. Great artisty and style in all. I have hundreds more photos I could post from various other artists.


Attachments:
File comment: Ficus banyan
2_Ficus_Nerifolia1.JPG
2_Ficus_Nerifolia1.JPG [ 44.14 KiB | Viewed 5863 times ]
File comment: AK Buttonwood
alan_kiefer_buttonwood_1.JPG
alan_kiefer_buttonwood_1.JPG [ 58.19 KiB | Viewed 5862 times ]
File comment: Lenz larch
Wey_Lenz_larch1.JPG
Wey_Lenz_larch1.JPG [ 55.53 KiB | Viewed 5863 times ]
File comment: Perkins JBP
perkin_JBP.JPG
perkin_JBP.JPG [ 47.68 KiB | Viewed 5860 times ]
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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jan 29, 2007 9:54 pm 
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Vance, I'm confused. What would make a good American bonsai? I get the feeling that to be considered "good" it must compare favorably with a Japanese bonsai. If this is the case, there is no American bonsai. If this isn't the case, how do we judge what is a good American bonsai?
I'm not being facetious. I really think that we need to quantify and qualify what an American bonsai is. Or is it just bonsai, no matter what the point of origin?
Japan has their style, China has their style, Europe has there style, and so on. This may be how it should be.
Now, how do we judge one against the other? Or should we?
Damned if I know.
Mike


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jan 29, 2007 10:59 pm 
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My thoughts:
What is a good bonsai?
A good bonsai should - have character
- have dignity
- have aesthetic value
- be designed according to style and form
- have some good positioned branches
- have adaequate ramification (3rd generation+)
- be healthy
- have refined foliage
- have good nebari relative to species
- be presented neat
- be positioned correctly in a suitable pot
You add an 'excellent' to all of the above and you have a masterclass bonsai.Til now all we have is a global masterclass tree.
You define a parameter regarding the artist's nationality and you will have a national masterclass tree.Nationality solely goes with the artist,not with
the tree.
If you want to compare trees,compare national masterclass with national
masterclass.National master class tropicals with national masterclass tropicals grown in greenhouses.
National masterclass conifers with national masterclass yamadori and all the other combinations.But please stay on the highest quality level,
everything else would lead to Walter's new posted article "Blind in one eye"
Let's keep both eyes open.
Regards,
Dorothy


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jan 29, 2007 11:23 pm 
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So Dorothy would you agree the 4 trees I posted are master class?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2007 12:12 am 
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Rob,
I am not in the position to judge these trees.
I do have a personal opinion,but I do decline to express them
at that time.
-Dorothy


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2007 12:25 am 
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Location: Michigan USA
Master class yes, but are they world-class?

Will


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2007 6:26 am 
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Will Heath wrote:
Master class yes, but are they world-class?

Will

Hmm, would you care to share a photo of a world class tree so I can understand the distinction? The trees above compare favorably to the better trees I have seen at major exhibitions in Japan and in Taiwan.


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