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 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Tue Oct 14, 2008 4:22 pm 
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Peter Warren wrote:
If you do not want to pay even the slightest tip of the hat to Japan and the weight of history and culture that the use of the word Bonsai implies then please enjoy your hobby of "dwarf trees in a pot that look pretty". This is the same argument that applies to viewing stones vs. suiseki. The name implies a certain set of criteria, an acknowldgement of what has come before and a respect for that. So did this award.



Rob Kempinski wrote:
The Western adoption of the Japanese word "bonsai" does not limit the world to use only Japan as a role model for appreciating trees in a pot. China has just as long and perhaps longer tradition of bonsai but the fact of the matter is bonsai is now a global art and persons from around the globe can adopt and do whatever they want regarding appreciating trees in a pot. The Japanophil approach is only one way.


Thank you for this!
This is exactly what I tried to say, so many times before, in so many post and teaching abroad! And that is hard to do in my broken English! :)
It is becoming so annoying to be constantly confronted with that so obviously superieure attitude and tone towards anything others than the traditional Japanese way of doing Bonsai. As if, we are not out there, From Vietnam to Italy and from Germany to the U.K, doing our version or way of Bonsai Art.
Here in Europe we Created, in just 2 decades, a new and exciting bonsai scene that is still going fast forward. A Bonsai community, were all styles are excepted and co coexist next to each other. From the traditional Japanese Italians school to the natural style of Walter Pall and the free style bonsai that I make here in Holland! We all show are trees in the same shows, magazines or forums, side by side and most of the times as equals. Isn't it about time you tried it this way?Bonsai comes in many forms, just like people, in different varieties, colors and cultural background. And we are just as devoted, with our whole heart and souls to Bonsai as any Japanese tree bender is! We are by now means blind to the magnificent Japanese Bonsai Art, and we enjoy, study and learn from it and give it all the credit it deserves. So isn't it about time you returned the favour?


Quote:
I thought the show was great and perhaps the only general critique I would make was that this was a North American show yet the main emphasis seemed to be to mimic Japan. Until the west grows out of this mode we will not fully develop our unique approach to the art.


Thanks again!

Quote:
Regarding the Yoshimura award, this award was to honor Mr Yoshimura's spirit which by definition is going to be difficult to do since Mr. Yoshimura is no longer around and therefore subject to other's interpretation. Mike's pine does not adhere to the modern design. In listening to Mr. Morimae's comments on Sunday morning he seemed to like the trunk and the lack of a helmet on the tree. Yet he said "he would reduce the foliage by 50%. to bring out the character of the tree." That comment was very telling to me, he selected a tree over other trees that he said he would reduce the foliage by 50%. What is he really saying?


So there is more to that story! :)

I am sorry that I take this matter very personal, but Bonsai is very personal to me! I am just hugely disappointed and find it very sad that AoB felt the need to highlight this Classical Bonsai award as a main eye catcher on the front page. Will they know, that there is a big controversy and discussion going on, about the way the Art of Bonsai Award was judges, were this tree was selected for this event! This is discussed at this moment here on AoB and on many, many other forums!

It is very disrespectful to the people that had questions about this and to the ones that tried to worn you!

To rub it in our faces like this is bad enough, but to do this in this "you all just don't get it way" is just plain right insulting!

And as all ways, when these games are played, the third party suffers! Mike, who created his bonsai with just as much love as I try to do, is caught in the middle of this all. And that really makes me angry! I have seen that happened so many times in Bonsai! Mike you are the man to me, don't let this get you down, this was never meant to put you down in any way. But things sometimes need to be sad and asked, others wish things like this will never change!
I have really no idea why this controversy is enhanced by AoB in this way, just to proof a Art point, and not solved in the background, like it should have been!
I feel terrible that this joyful event for Bonsai in America needed to be tarnished like this, instead of highlighted! I would love to see the pictures or hear the story's about this event. The funny thing is, that they always try to teach us: it is all about the trees! Not in this case it isn't!

I hate that I have been pushed in this position and have come to the conclusion that I just don't belong in a environment like this, it makes me angry and helpless, and spoils my soul and there for my Bonsai fun. I guess I just have to except, that I will never understand how real bonsai art is made! Well you just cant have it all!

Regards,
Hans van Meer.


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 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Tue Oct 14, 2008 4:51 pm 
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hans van meer wrote:
I am sorry that I take this matter very personal, but Bonsai is very personal to me! I am just hugely disappointed and find it very sad that AoB felt the need to highlight this Classical Bonsai award as a main eye catcher on the front page. Will they know, that there is a big controversy and discussion going on, about the way the Art of Bonsai Award was judges, were this tree was selected for this event! This is discussed at this moment here on AoB and on many, many other forums!

It is very disrespectful to the people that had questions about this and to the ones that tried to worn you!

To rub it in our faces like this is bad enough, but to do this in this "you all just don't get it way" is just plain right insulting!


Hans,

AoB is neutral.

Again, we had no part in choosing the winners in the AoB Awards or at the national exhibit. In fact, all judges from both events are world renowned bonsai artists, each capable of creating the quality of bonsai that were to be judged, and each quite experienced in judging such.

We simply report the outcome, we do not decide the outcome. Your blame placing does no good, would you prefer that we ignore the discussions? Of course we know that controversy and discussion is going on, hence we seen the importance of posting this article by one of the judges who selected Mike's tree as a winner. Everyone asked to hear from the judges, now it seems they complain because they have?

Please also notice where the article is posted. It is in the Eristic section, where all topics subject to debate go.

What do I think?

I think that Mike's tree was selected by three very experienced judges at the National Exhibit as the winner of the classical award after it was selected by one of America's leading expert's on traditional Japanese bonsai from all the entries of the AoB Awards to be exhibited there.

I think it is a frigging Cinderella story, as I wrote in my review of the show posted here at AoB in the review section.

I also think I'll respect the decisions of the judges of the AoB Awards and the judges of the National Exhibit, even though I personally may not agree with them.

Will


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 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Tue Oct 14, 2008 5:06 pm 
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I would like to thank Peter Warren for sharing his thoughts on this subject. For those who want to expand their own insight with Bonsai this is a wonderful gift. To those who know it all, try to have patience with those that do not think you do.
Your "warnings" sound alot like threats to me Hans. I saw Bill Valavanis's work at Ginkgo and I saw yours. There is no need to say more.
The judges spent the entire day studing each and every tree and writing comments. No one else can say they gave as much time to each and every tree and the judges are all to be commended on their dedication.
There are many valid approachs to Bonsai and everyone is always free to choose the path they find suits them. That said, I find the lack of respect given the roots of BONSAI distasteful, not honest and disrespectful. I am more than a little concerned when some expresses Japanaphobia.
The Yoshimura Award is not just for Yuji but the whole Yoshimura family and their contributions to Classical Bonsai. It has become fashionable to misrepresent and bash Classical Bonsai by those who do not understand it. The Judges choice may require a re-thinking of what some people thought they knew which is good.
Thanks to all who supported the First National Exhibition in so many ways!
Mark


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 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Tue Oct 14, 2008 6:39 pm 
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Every exhibit will reflect the taste of the organizer. And this is how it should be.
In this case, Bill Valavanis was the organizer. His training is in classical Japanese bonsai. Why would we expect him not to follow his personal preference?

A good exhibit always has a "personality", or theme. They cannot be "everything". They cannot be impersonal and please everybody. They need to express an opinion. Art curators of museums and other exhibits decide what this personality is, and the public should respect the choice made.

I don't think that Bill ever said that the only good theme to follow is the Japanese theme. But this was his choice. It was a good choice, since Japanese bonsai is the foundation of Western bonsai. Just like Pershian, Greek, and Roman history is the foundation of the Western civilization. Generations of students are taught Greek and Roman history over and over and over again. If you want to appreciate contemporary democracies, you need to have an understanding of where it all started. Nobody complains about this, and nobody takes it as an insult. Nobody in their right mind would recommend to forget about ancient history because we have a contemporary history.

Never mind the fact that classical Japanese bonsai is not ancient at all, it is still alive and well. It is the foundation of all that we have learned about bonsai.

People who complain, keep saying that the Japanese way is not the oly way. They are fighting a gost, since nobody ever suggested otherwise.

The second national exhibit may have a somewhat different "personality". We will see.


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 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Tue Oct 14, 2008 8:00 pm 
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I for one was very confused by this award. I actually made it a joke all night during the banquet and started my conversation with "how about that pine?" I asked everyone In fact I was obsessed by this during the show because nobody understood this award-In fact it made most of us angry that this is the tree that will be remembered for the whole world to see; unfortunately proof that America is lagging behind. Ironically when there were so many beautiful trees that spoke so many more volumes with their eloquence. I know art is subjective but I am baffled by this one, and it is going to take more than this article to change the minds of the almost unanimous opinions of everyone who got a close look at this tree.


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 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 12:01 am 
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Many thanks to Mark for his kind comments. Your help will be remembered for a long time.

To Hans, I am not rubbing anybodies faces in anything, if I wanted to remain superior and above it all then I would not have bothered to write and article and put my neck on the line. At no point in the article do I say that people who don't understand it are inferior or stupid or their bonsai are not as good. I wrote it to help people understand what the award was about, not an attack on those who don't get it, I wanted people to improve their knowledge by being able to learn form the experiences that they haven't been able to have, just in the same way that I learn about European Bonsai thinking from European artists. I thought was a fair and honest assessment of the reasoning behind the award. You are not quite correct about Mike being the only one who created this bonsai, the story of it proves it, he was one of the many and that is the essence of the classical bonsai award, something where the hand of one man is not seen, where it is not the expression of one person on the tree. He did have a large influence on it and his work is not being overlooked, the fact that he had the ability to bring it out to near its fullest is being rewarded.

I would like to point out that at the same exhibition Colin Lewis sponsored $1500 of his own money for the exact opposite of the Yoshimura award, the best western display, A gesture which I whole heartedly supported. That too was unanimously agreed on by all four judges and enjoyed by such hard headed "Japanophiles", Mr. Morimae and myself thoroughly. The winning tree which can be seen on the IBC board was both elegant and modern at the same time. The display was thoughtful and very non japanese. I thanked Jim Gillespie personally for having the nerve to do something different and daring but pulling it off with such craft and artistic ability. He did the same thing a week previously at the Stone Symposium.

One award was for one school of thought, another award for another one.

Neither is superior to the other and nowhere in my article nor any of my other writing have I said that Japan or the Japanese approach is superior to any other. I rate genuine European artists such as Sandro Segneri and Lorenzo Agnoletti as amongst the top in the world. I think all forms of display should be attempted. Anybody who has heard me talk on the subject will confirm that.

If you were obsessed by the pine and the hideousness of the decision then why didn't you confront one or more of the judges like many other people did? You would have received the same answer as given here and to the other people who asked, which you would have been free to disagree with. Interestingly enough I would say about 80% of the audience was very happy when the announcement was made and those people who did ask went home happier.

As for American bonsai being behind, then I would whole heartedly disagree. The quality on display at the exhibition and of trees that weren't sent to the exhibition, America has nothing to be ashamed of. What the trees in the exhibition had that fewer European trees in recent exhibitions have is tens of years of cultivation in a pot. This results in a much more subtle and refined character that can only be achieved with the passing of time. European trees do have this before you accuse me of anti-EU sentiment, my favourite tree at the recent BCI-IBS exhibition would have easily fallen into the classical bonsai category. A Spanish Sylvestris grown in a pot for 25 years, with barely a wire on it now. Danny Use said exactly the same thing at Gingko so I am not alone here. There were fewer fully wired out trees at this exhibition.

The coastal redwood that is referred to was out of competition. If it wasn't then it would have had my vote for best in show let alone the best classical tree. That tree is amongst my favourites in the world. It should also be noted that Bill Valavanis and all of his students removed their trees from competition for fear of accusations of cronyism. It may do many people well to actually go through the guide to the exhibition and see which ones have the asterisk next to them before making any decisions on the judges and their abilities.

The judging of the trees was done in a very open and honest fashion, there was no outside influence and each exhibitor will get comments on their tree. Which other exhibition can claim to be that way? That should be celebrated, applauded and copied in the future. For once America is leading the way.

It is correct that Mr Morimae did say that the tree needed to lose half the foliage, it could be improved etc. This was pointed out in my original post and on my comments on Mikes judging sheet. However repeatedly pointing this out will only serve to cheapen the award and the experience for Mike.

Mike thoroughly deserved the award and so did all the other winners. Let it lie.


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 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 12:41 am 
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I have read Peter Warren's article multiple times now and feel I understand a bit better his reasons for choosing this tree. I have one question for Peter if he would answer it, and that is: Was this tree the first choice of the other two judges for this award?

His definition of Classical seems unique and one I have not seen put forward elsewhere. Given that Yuji Yoshimura is often credited with the rules of Bonsai (as Vance Wood's thread in this forum, It's All Mr. Yoshimura's Fault, states,) it is surprising that a more classical definition of classical was not used. I am always leery when someone tells me I will understand as I become more sophisticated in my understanding of _____ (fill in the blank.) It usually means I will understand when I think more like them. That being said, I am always willing to try on different perspectives, and appreciate Peter Warren's explanation of his.

I have not had the pleasure of going to Japan and must content myself with the Kokufu-ten Albums that I have collected. After looking through multiple books I finally found a tree that had some semblance to the tree selected. It is in the 47th edition on page 105. This tree has a more dramatic base, more movement and more refined foliage, but does show some precedent for the selection for the choice of the award winner. I probably would have appreciated a choice based on one of the other couple of thousand trees in the pages of the books I looked through, but I'm sure others would say the same if I had chosen.

I am still to flush with the enjoyment of the show to want to let this controversy sour it for me. I hope that there will be future National Exhibits and the chance for controversy that will accompany them.


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 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 12:47 am 
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I think we may be missing the forest because the trees are blocking the view.

viewtopic.php?f=29&t=2655


Will


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 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 1:06 am 
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The three judges unanimously agreed on the winner. It would be unfair to all the winners to discuss this ins and outs of the judging process. They won because they deserved it.

The Yoshimura design principles set down in his rules for Bonsai were, for better or worse, his attempt to introduce the western world to Bonsai in a systematic way much more understandable for the western audience. They were not necessarily a way of creating such a tree. This is where the confusion has arisen from.

I thank you for taking the time to point out that in Kokufuten 47, which was round the mid 60's, and such trees were still considered to be amongst the best in Japan. That period of time was the pinnacle for classical bonsai, if you delve further back into the history books you will see trees that resemble the natural style of...Walter Pall. That is the interesting thing that can be learned from history, that cycles repeat and fashions come and go. The novel explorations of European Bonsai and Suiseki are no different than what the Japanese did 50, 60, 70, 80 years ago. Different display methods, naturalistic trees, highly stylised trees...The chinese did it, the Japanese have done it, we are doing it, it's just the nature of life and by default Bonsai.

I appreciate your comments about

I am always leery when someone tells me I will understand as I become more sophisticated in my understanding of _____ (fill in the blank.) It usually means I will understand when I think more like them.

It was not my intention at all to brainwash anybody into thinking in a certain way, we all have individual tastes and thank goodness for that. I agree entirely with your sentiments. These are the swindlers of the Emperors New Clothes tale that was referred to earlier.


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 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 4:15 am 
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.


Last edited by Richard Patefield on Mon Apr 27, 2009 7:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 6:08 am 
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Mark Arpag wrote:

Your "warnings" sound alot like threats to me Hans. I saw Bill Valavanis's work at Ginkgo and I saw yours. There is no need to say more.


Ha ha that's funny, thanks for that!
This reply is really the last on for me: It was not meant as a treat at all! Because I am a part of this AoB community, I tried to warn the organizers several times that the competition was ridiculed and laughed at on many bonsai forums, because of the strange judging result! This are Bonsai forums were a lot of the participants from this same competition have their residence. A matter that easily could have been solved if things would have been explained or answered by the judges involved. Than this would all not have happened! My motives were honorable.
And yes off course you should debate the trees from this show, by all means do! But you could have picked some others first, to let the controversy blow over a bit, instead of selecting this Pine first and than telling us what good Bonsai art should be!
Although: I wonder how Marco feels now about judging this AoB contest?!

Quote:
Peter Warren] : Mike thoroughly deserved the award and so did all the other winners. Let it lie.


Peter, I never sad he didn't and I will let it lie!
From now on it is only Blogging for me, less stress! :)
The uppermost respect to one and all!
Regards,
Hans van Meer.


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 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 8:24 am 
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To Hans.

I think you have taken one or two comments on this and another board that I have made in the complete opposite way to how they were intended and have got the wrong impression of me. I am sorry for this and I hope one day that I can buy you a beer and we can talk in person and discuss ideas in the way they should be, and not on the internet.

To Richard.

The judging process as in who decided on what as first place in what category and second place in the category, how many judges had what tree as first place etc. should not be discussed which is what the question asked was refering to.

The criteria for the award was best classical bonsai, the name was the Yoshimura award, therefore the tree which best fit into the classical style and closest to the Yoshimura aesthetic of the 60's or earlier. What more do you criteria do you need? It isn't Crufts where the angle of the hind legs and the brilliance of the coat is marked and awarded on a points scheme. If it were then we would have no artistic trees just textbook ones which fulfilled certain criteria.

I see on this and many boards that Bonsai Art is about feeling, emotion and the soul of the artist. Surely these are metaphysical and occult concepts that are inaccessible as well? Where is the difference from that and what I have said?

How do you rank the winner of best in show? Jim Gremel's outstanding cascade Juniper? Or Best western display in show? Rather than ripping down a deserving winner then why not try and be constructive and say which tree you would have picked as the winner and why.

Nobody is saying that you have to like the tree, just like you don't have to like the record that is at number 1 in the chart. If you think it is terrible and undeserving then turn around and walk away. If the tree does something for you, and it did for many, including Bill Valavanis, myself and a vast majority of the viewing public, then enjoy it. Neither group is right or wrong, they just have different taste.


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 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 8:54 am 
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I am very happy for Mike and his tree. Mike has always had his own style for bonsai design and has done much for the art. Even if it wasn't the intention of the judges, as I know they were judging the tree, I think it was great that Mike's contribution to the art of bonsai was recognized.

Mike was so stunned and appreciative that it couldn't have been a better choice.
Attachment:
Mike and Rob.jpg
Mike and Rob.jpg [ 36.41 KiB | Viewed 1332 times ]



Judging is subjective and will always be so. Posting the scores doesn't change that; it is still subjective. As an art, the emotional connection a tree makes is the most important feature and no score can tally that. I believe that is what the judges saw in Mike's tree, an emotional connection.

Peter Warren wrote:
The coastal redwood that is referred to was out of competition. If it wasn't then it would have had my vote for best in show let alone the best classical tree. That tree is amongst my favourites in the world.


I wish we had a picture of that Coast Redwood to post. It was fantastic.
In looking at the list of trees I see it came from the GSBF Bonsai Garden n Lake Merritt, CA so perhaps that is why it was out the competition. As a tweak for future exhibits, maybe we can do what I recently saw in Italy. Trees out of the competition had such a note on their label. Quick update - I just noticed on the exhibit catalogue there were little asterisks saying certain trees were for Exhibit only (so Bill had thought of this. My feeble eyesight though couldn't read them.)



Peter Warren wrote:
my favourite tree at the recent BCI-IBS exhibition would have easily fallen into the classical bonsai category. A Spanish Sylvestris grown in a pot for 25 years, with barely a wire on it now. .


I was at the Italy show and agree wholeheartedly. In fact that Spanish Scots Pine won the BCI President's award.

Peter Warren wrote:
with barely a wire on it now. Danny Use said exactly the same thing at Gingko so I am not alone here. There were fewer fully wired out trees at this exhibition.

This is one of the features of the US National Exhibition that really impressed me, as I have said in other posts. The level of maturity of many of the trees was superb.

A pet peeve of mine is exhibiting trees with guy wires. In Italy recently almost every conifer had guy wires on them (including the Spanish Scots Pine that won in Italy - but it had two small subtle wires). While there much fewer guy wires at the US National show there were still several. To me a guy wire is an early phase training technique and really should be removed prior to showing a tree at a national exhibition. This should be a goal for artists at the next show.

It would be great if we could post the other winning trees, as as Peter said Mike's tree wasn't the only winner. Jim Gremel's cascade juniper that won was very nice.

The US West Coast did very well in the awards winning three of the big ones - best tree, best conifer and the Yoshimura award. Let's hope this inspires other far off trees to enter the next exhibition.


Last edited by Rob Kempinski on Sat Oct 18, 2008 8:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 10:31 am 
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We suffer from an excess of Richard's here. However since Peter Warren's response goes to the points of both...

Peter- I do not believe I asked you to spill the guts of the judging process on the table. The question I asked was no more detailed than what was offered by Bill Valavanis and now yourself, that the choice was unanimous. This was not said about any of the other awards, and at the start set this tree and award apart. Asking if all three judges had this tree selected as the winner of the award from the start is no more detailed than stating the choice was unanimous.

Getting multiple judges to agree on an award is an accomplishment. Winning an award is an accomplishment. A work being selected unanimously, at any point in the process is outstanding. Having three judges all select the same work right from the start is almost unfathomable. After my initial surprise I offered Mike my congratulations. It is an accomplishment he should be proud of. The purpose of this show was to try to exhibit the best trees in the nation in one place. His tree was accepted for display, and any tree that was in the exhibit would be of sufficient quality to win an award. Hopefully Mike does not take this discussion personally. Ranking art is a strange enough concept all on its own without expecting groups of people to agree on the results.

The best way to avoid controversy is to keep everything out in the open. The earlier and clearer the criteria are defined the less controversy will be raised. Coming up with the criteria after the fact and telling people they are not adept enough to understand the decision will only do the opposite. The Exhibition is over, and the awards presented. Hopefully the discussion here is not geared to pointing fingers. It is my hope that this discussion is an attempt to understand the past to better the future.

The National Exhibition is needed to help American Bonsai reach the next level. For a first attempt this show was outstanding. Bill Valavanis and everyone who worked, supported and exhibited are owed our sincerest thanks. The quality of trees was befitting the aspirations of the show. Hopefully it will help draw out other masterpieces that lie in obscurity as the years progress. It helped answer for me at least as to the whereabouts of great American bonsai. As a nation we are one of the elders outside of Asia in practicing bonsai. Up till now we had little for public display.


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 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 10:37 am 
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If Bill wants to make an award for retro bonsai, then fine. If judges who are clearly more knowledgeable than most of us on this narrow topic select a tree that many cannot appreciate, also fine. The selection of this tree was based on criteria few of us understand: criteria from another time and another culture. That does not make it any less valid.

Accept this award for what it is: an acknowledgment of a style of a bygone era. There are plenty of other awards that acknowledge contemporary bonsai, both nationally and internationally (WBFF/JAL Award, for one). Accept also that there will always be contention between the academics and the practitioners, between critics and artists / performers, between those with the knowledge and those with the imagination and creativity.


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