Dominic Buccella - An Undiscovered Talent
Bonsai and photographs by Dominic Buccella
During the process of sorting through a rather large pile of envelopes submitted for our photo contest that was held in conjunction with Bonsai Today magazine, we came across some photographs of bonsai that showed remarkable raw talent. That in itself was not surprising, as the contest brought in over 200 entries from around the world, many of which showed real talent. The thing that caught our interest was Dominic's casual mention in his letter stating that he had never shown these bonsai to anyone before and that he had never received any type of instruction outside of what he read in books and magazines such as his favorite, Bonsai Today.
After a phone conversation with Dominic, we decided to put together a gallery of his bonsai for display in order to show the level a person can reach with careful study of print media, hard work, talent, and the will to do so.
The bonsai featured below are outstanding in many ways including that they were created without formal instruction, peer review, Internet forums, or other outside influences besides print media. Yet, they also show the limitations of such self education in that many of them could be dramatically improved with height reduction, nebari restructuring, and overall fine development. The very things that usually can only be learned from personal instruction from a person with vast experience in bringing a bonsai past the development stages and into the final level of refinement, in short, formal instruction.
This gallery effectively shows what can be accomplished by a person with talent and access only to published books and articles. We can see that the only possible thing lacking in order to bring these bonsai to the next level is quality, personal instruction. He has reached a level that very few practicing bonsai ever will and he reached it alone without forums, without clubs, without peer review, without shows. Is it possible that all one needs for bonsai is talent, inspiration, and formal instruction?
Why not, that is after all, the way bonsai has been taught for centuries.
Dominic Buccella first started growing bonsai in the mid 1960's after a service man returned from Japan and told him stories about the wonderful little trees that were being grown there. He ordered some seeds from a mail order company and begun growing without instruction of any sort. Tools and pots were virtually non-existent at the time and often very expensive if they could be found.
His involvement with bonsai waxed and waned with his life's demands and other hobbies (such as raising exotic birds and fancy goldfish) came and went. Eventually he joined the Pennsylvania Bonsai Society in the 1970's where he met other bonsaists but grew weary after receiving harsh criticism when showing his bonsai then at the Philadelphia Flower Show.
Dominic is 75 years old and is now retired from the bakery business. He has a degree in biology but has never used it in an occupation. The vast majority of the trees here (all but one of the Maples and the Crab Apples) were grown by Dominic from seeds. The Crab Apples were all grown from root suckers.
He credits the few books he owns and the magazine, "Bonsai Today" for his education in bonsai, as he has never taken instruction from anyone. Dominic does not have Internet access and never goes on-line, but he did promise to go to a friends house with Internet access to see this gallery. (Thanks Dominic, for allowing us to showcase your bonsai here.) Dominic now resides with his bonsai in New Jersey.
The following gallery is the work of Dominic Buccella, a fellow artist, who has taken the articles and pictures from bonsai publications and proved that they indeed can educate those willing to learn.