2008 US National Exhibition Redux

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2008 US National Exhibition Redux

Post  Rob Kempinski on Mon Nov 09, 2009 4:23 am

During my recent trip with Bill Valvanis to Japan two interesting tidbits appeared regarding last year's US National Exhibition. The first was Bill found an article in the Japanese bonsai magazine, Kinbon, (Kinbon 2009 Number 9) about it. What really got us stoked was the comment made in red text in the lower right.

In Japanese it said: "Nihon no sekuhin to sonshoku nai Amerika no bonsai tachi." Translated it means "The character of American bonsai is not inferior to Japanese (art) work." Or putting it in a more idomatic American expression "There is no difference in character of Japanese and American bonsai." Quite a compliment - especially coming from Japanese artists.



The other has to do with the selection of the Japanese Black Pine tree by Mike Page that won the Yoshimura Award. Before I get into that I need to sort through over 1,000 photographs that I took in Japan and Taiwan. But I now understand the selection rationale much better.

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Re: 2008 US National Exhibition Redux

Post  dorothy7774 on Mon Nov 09, 2009 4:09 pm

Rob, that is a pretty stunning discovery! Did Bill know ahead of time of the article being ppanned to appear in Kinbon magazine? Anyway, very nice comment, I agree.

-dorothy

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Re: 2008 US National Exhibition Redux

Post  William N. Valavanis on Mon Nov 09, 2009 9:16 pm

Dorothy,

Of course I knew the article would appear in Kinbon magazine, where do you think they got the photos from?

As one of the sponsors of the historic event they received several of the high quality images from the First US National Bonsai Exhibition Album, i just did not know when, nor what they were going to stay.

Traveling and visiting many professional bonsai artists in Japan they have all commented that American bonsai are equal to Japanese bonsai. Of course I've known that for years, but apparently the bonsai world, especially across the oceans, did not. That's one of the reasons I decided to organize and host the successful First US National Bonsai Exhibition.

Watch for the formal announcements and submission information for entries soon when I return home from Taiwan and Japan. The 2nd US National Bonsai Exhibition will be held on the weekend of June 12-13, 2010 in Rochester, New York.

I hope you can join us for this exciting event featuring Kunio Kobayashi.

Bill

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Re: 2008 US National Exhibition Redux

Post  Will Heath on Tue Nov 10, 2009 1:39 pm

William N. Valavanis wrote:

Traveling and visiting many professional bonsai artists in Japan they have all commented that American bonsai are equal to Japanese bonsai. Of course I've known that for years, but apparently the bonsai world, especially across the oceans, did not. That's one of the reasons I decided to organize and host the successful First US National Bonsai Exhibition.

I think part of the problem with perception is conflicting reports. Take for example the response by Ryan Neil (an apprentince of Kimura's for many years) to the question, "What is the general consensus of the Japanese bonsaists you talked to about the state of bonsai in the West?" He said, "...In terms of the Japanese’s’ regard for American bonsai…well, it pains me to say that the overall opinion of bonsai in the U.S. is a bit more humbling. Japanese would agree the natural resources for bonsai greatness are abundant throughout the eclectic landscape that is the United States. The dedicated individuals and monetary tools seem to be in place to drive the formation of a prospering bonsai culture. And, most Japanese bonsai enthusiasts would agree at one point the United States was well on its way to becoming a perennial bonsai nation. However, somewhere between the late 90’s and early 2000 America’s bonsai culture lost its momentum. From that point on the eastern consensus views American bonsai as being in a state of stagnation." - Ryan Neil ( http://www.artofbonsai.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=3860 )





Will

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Re: 2008 US National Exhibition Redux

Post  Mark on Tue Nov 10, 2009 3:46 pm

Perception changes when challenged by reality. The 1st National Bonsai Exhibition was held just over a year ago and the Exhibition album was released only months ago. The impact on perception is still underway as evidenced by the Kinbon article. Kinbon is the premier Bonsai magazine in the world and their recognition should be celebrated. In my opinion, this news should be take as encouragement to continue to refine our Bonsai Art and share our work with the world. While there will always be those that choose to embrace old perceptions, many others will work to bring the new reality to light with the 2nd NATIONAL BONSAI EXHIBITION to held only months away in June 2010.

Mark

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Re: 2008 US National Exhibition Redux

Post  Rob Kempinski on Tue Nov 10, 2009 3:57 pm

Will Heath wrote:
William N. Valavanis wrote:

Traveling and visiting many professional bonsai artists in Japan they have all commented that American bonsai are equal to Japanese bonsai. Of course I've known that for years, but apparently the bonsai world, especially across the oceans, did not. That's one of the reasons I decided to organize and host the successful First US National Bonsai Exhibition.

I think part of the problem with perception is conflicting reports. Take for example the response by Ryan Neil (an apprentince of Kimura's for many years) to the question, "What is the general consensus of the Japanese bonsaists you talked to about the state of bonsai in the West?" He said, "...In terms of the Japanese’s’ regard for American bonsai…well, it pains me to say that the overall opinion of bonsai in the U.S. is a bit more humbling. Japanese would agree the natural resources for bonsai greatness are abundant throughout the eclectic landscape that is the United States. The dedicated individuals and monetary tools seem to be in place to drive the formation of a prospering bonsai culture. And, most Japanese bonsai enthusiasts would agree at one point the United States was well on its way to becoming a perennial bonsai nation. However, somewhere between the late 90’s and early 2000 America’s bonsai culture lost its momentum. From that point on the eastern consensus views American bonsai as being in a state of stagnation." - Ryan Neil ( http://www.artofbonsai.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=3860 )
Will

Assessments have to be made based on data. How many of the Japanese bonsai enthusiasts mentioned above have been to the US and have seen its wide variety of bonsai? Even more important how many have been to a juried and preselected show? If they haven't how can they make an accurate assessment?

Ryan's comment about momentum is interesting - I wonder what it is based on, and frankly how it is measured. There are many indicators that say this isn't true. Consider the growing number of bonsai conventions, the growing number of members in organizations, the strength of regional bonsai organizations, number of US books published, the number of web pages, the number of national shows, the growing movement to expand bonsai as an art and not a horticultural pastime, the development of better and better bonsai trees as time progresses, etc. The extrapolation of all these trends seem to be positive despite the tough economic times.

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Re: 2008 US National Exhibition Redux

Post  Will Heath on Tue Nov 10, 2009 4:27 pm

Mark wrote: the 2nd NATIONAL BONSAI EXHIBITION to held only months away in June 2010.
I was under the impression that the 2nd would be held in October, as the 1st was?

Rob Kempinski wrote:
Assessments have to be made based on data. How many of the Japanese bonsai enthusiasts mentioned above have been to the US and have seen its wide variety of bonsai? Even more important how many have been to a juried and preselected show? If they haven't how can they make an accurate assessment?
The same could be said in reverse, how many Americans have been to Japan and seen...? Ryan is just one person, apprenticed to Kimurua, however, his perceptions and experiences there can not be dismissed.

Certainly the American bonsai scene is growing and advancing, but there is still a long ways to go in many areas in order for the art to advance beyond the common "hobby" mentality shared by the public and sadly, by many within the art itself.

Vance Wood wrote an interesting article sometime ago titled "The Problem With American Bonsai" which hit upon some valid points and also caused quite a bit of debate. This article later led to the North American vs Europe Photo Contest which brought out many of the best bonsai from both regions and supported the often debated argument that European bonsai was ahead of American bonsai.

There is no doubt that American bonsai is becoming much more than what it was, but from what I have seen personally, putting it on the same level as European or Japanese bonsai is premature. Oh we have a handful of artists that could go head to head with most anyone else in the world, but a handful isn't enough.

This years AoB awards (results will be launched soon) has, as in previous years, brought in bonsai from many countries around the world, the resulting entries are very similar to previous years, American bonsai has a long ways to go.


Last edited by Will Heath on Tue Nov 10, 2009 4:56 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: 2008 US National Exhibition Redux

Post  Mark on Tue Nov 10, 2009 4:44 pm

Will,

2nd NATIONAL BONSAI EXHIBITION JUNE 12-13 2010,

Posted June 12 2009 on Art of Bonsai and June 13 2009 on Internet Bonsai Club with details on why.

Mark

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Re: 2008 US National Exhibition Redux

Post  Will Heath on Tue Nov 10, 2009 5:21 pm

Mark wrote:Will,

2nd NATIONAL BONSAI EXHIBITION JUNE 12-13 2010,

Posted June 12 2009 on Art of Bonsai and June 13 2009 on Internet Bonsai Club with details on why.

Mark

HA, thanks, guess I should have known that. Embarassed


Will

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Re: 2008 US National Exhibition Redux

Post  Rob Kempinski on Tue Nov 10, 2009 7:06 pm

Will Heath wrote:
Mark wrote: the 2nd NATIONAL BONSAI EXHIBITION to held only months away in June 2010.
I was under the impression that the 2nd would be held in October, as the 1st was?

Rob Kempinski wrote:
Assessments have to be made based on data. How many of the Japanese bonsai enthusiasts mentioned above have been to the US and have seen its wide variety of bonsai? Even more important how many have been to a juried and preselected show? If they haven't how can they make an accurate assessment?
The same could be said in reverse, how many Americans have been to Japan and seen...? Ryan is just one person, apprenticed to Kimurua, however, his perceptions and experiences there can not be dismissed.

Certainly the American bonsai scene is growing and advancing, but there is still a long ways to go in many areas in order for the art to advance beyond the common "hobby" mentality shared by the public and sadly, by many within the art itself.

Vance Wood wrote an interesting article sometime ago titled "The Problem With American Bonsai" which hit upon some valid points and also caused quite a bit of debate. This article later led to the North American vs Europe Photo Contest which brought out many of the best bonsai from both regions and supported the often debated argument that European bonsai was ahead of American bonsai.

There is no doubt that American bonsai is becoming much more than what it was, but from what I have seen personally, putting it on the same level as European or Japanese bonsai is premature. Oh we have a handful of artists that could go head to head with most anyone else in the world, but a handful isn't enough.

This years AoB awards (results will be launched soon) has, as in previous years, brought in bonsai from many countries around the world, the resulting entries are very similar to previous years, American bonsai has a long ways to go.

Will, the AOB sample size in both AOB competitions is miniscule compared to the overall bonsai scene. Walter Pall trees dominated the competitions. That a continent does not make. For what ever reason Americans are not that interested in the AoB competitions (I didn't get around to it either this year and neither did most top name American artists.)

When you compare top quality American trees, as was assembled for the North American exhibition, with any others in the world, you have to reach the same conclusion that Kinbon did.

While I don't know how it relates, many Americans have been to Japan - Bill Valvanis runs twice a year tours, Ben Oki runs tours and I'd estimate more than half of the serious bonsai artists in the US have been to Japan at least once.

I am not dismissing Ryan's observations but asking for the basis and what metrics he is using to make his assessments as Ryan is fairly young and has spent most of his bonsai career in Japan. How familiar is he with the global bonsai scene and the trees in various collections in the USA?

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Re: 2008 US National Exhibition Redux

Post  Will Heath on Tue Nov 10, 2009 8:05 pm

Rob Kempinski wrote:Will, the AOB sample size in both AOB competitions is miniscule compared to the overall bonsai scene. Walter Pall trees dominated the competitions. That a continent does not make. For what ever reason Americans are not that interested in the AoB competitions (I didn't get around to it either this year and neither did most top name American artists.)
Rob, this goes back to the Tiger Woods argument I presented above, we can assume there are better bonsai, just like one can assume there are better golfers, and there may well be, but unless they are shown, they hold the same position as Schroedinger's cat. While the AoB awards may be a small sampling of the entire bonsai community, it is a comprehensive sampling of bonsai from many different countries, perhaps the best sampling readily viewable anywhere.

Rob Kempinski wrote:Walter Pall trees dominated the competitions
Yes, bravo for Walter Pall, a world class artist with more top quality bonsai than are seen in most exhibitions! Man, we could use a few Americans like him to dominate competitions!

Rob Kempinski wrote:When you compare top quality American trees, as was assembled for the North American exhibition, with any others in the world, you have to reach the same conclusion that Kinbon did.
As you are aware, I was at the North American Exhibition and I also have viewed many trees from other countries and I'm afraid my opinion differs from yours. However, before we go further, I would like to clarify your position, are you saying that American bonsai is at least at the same level as Japanese bonsai and at that of any other country?


NOTE: MAybe we should move this discussion into another thread, so as note to disrupt (our hijack) this one?

Will

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Re: 2008 US National Exhibition Redux

Post  Rob Kempinski on Tue Nov 10, 2009 8:46 pm

Will Heath wrote:
As you are aware, I was at the North American Exhibition and I also have viewed many trees from other countries and I'm afraid my opinion differs from yours. However, before we go further, I would like to clarify your position, are you saying that American bonsai is at least at the same level as Japanese bonsai and at that of any other country?

Will

I will defer to Kinbon's assessment with which I agree.

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Re: 2008 US National Exhibition Redux

Post  Will Heath on Tue Nov 10, 2009 8:49 pm

Fair enough, I hope to see it someday.


Either way, the article is a huge plus for not only American Bonsai, but also for the National Exhibition!



Will

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Re: 2008 US National Exhibition Redux

Post  Dustin Mann on Wed Nov 11, 2009 12:58 am

My personal opinion is that many of these various web site postings are becoming "PHOTO BONSAI" of 1)before and after-short term, and 2) who has the best collected material sitting in yard. Many of these trees posted(excluding Walter Pall) have been around less than 20yrs. Hopefully it will still remain "all about the tree" and longevity and not become "all about the artist". Dustin Mann

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..

Post  dorothy7774 on Wed Nov 11, 2009 1:15 am

Bill,

I assumed you did give permission to Kinbon magazine to use the photographs of the exhibition. It just sounded like you were surprised to find the article in the September issue when Rob posted the comment. I understand now that you did not have a timeline knowing when the article would be published.

Ernie and I are planning to attend the second US National Bonsai Exhibition after we missed the first one.

Thanks,
dorothy

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Re: 2008 US National Exhibition Redux

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