Before you read any further, go outside and check your collection. Turn on a light if it’s dark out – one year from today marks the grand opening of the Artisans Cup of Portland Bonsai Exhibition. If you are at all curious about participating in the event, check to see which of your trees look great today, and then imagine how much better they will look with an entire year of exhibit preparation. Once you’ve selected the trees, mark a date on the calendar for photography as photos are required of all entries. If one or more of these trees is deciduous, select a date in winter so the tree can be appreciated out of leaf.
I had the Artisans Cup in mind as I strolled through New American Masters, the exhibit featuring the work of Michael Hagedorn and Ryan Neil at Weyerhaeuser’s Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection. Below is a brief biography of Neil from the exhibit and some of the trees he displayed.
Ryan Neil’s career in bonsai began long before he made the commitment to a life with little trees. Born and raised in Colorado, Ryan spent his youth amidst the fantastic array of tortured and stunted trees that give the Rocky Mountains their splendid character. Ryan discovered bonsai while in high school, and his initial interest soon developed into a passion that led him to California, where he earned a degree in horticulture form Cal Poly. It was while he was in California that Ryan met Mr. Ben Oki, who proved to be the catalyst for arranging his Japan apprenticeship with world renowned bonsai master Mr. Masahiko Kimura.
Six years after stepping into the shoes of a bonsai apprentice, Ryan is now a bonsai professional pursuing excellence in his art throughout the United States and abroad. His travels have taken him as far as Europe and Asia, but his dominant interest and most ambitious endeavors remain with bonsai development in the United States.
The Western world has yet to realize its full potential in the art of bonsai. Through the coordinated efforts of respected professionals, dedicated enthusiasts, and like-minded groups and organizations, Ryan hopes to achieve a bonsai community capable of self-sufficiency. Only then, he believes, will Western bonsai stand as peers with those of the East, and ably represent our own culture and amazing native tree species.
Rocky Mountain Juniper – 2 years in training
Ponderosa Pine – 2 years in training
Lodgepole Pine – 3 years in training
Ponderosa Pine – 4 years in training