The Portland Japanese Garden is hosting a bonsai exhibit featuring the work of Ryan Neil from May 21st through June 19th. Eric Schrader and I were in town on opening day so we stopped by for a visit.
The exhibit, American Bonsai: The Unbridled Art of Ryan Neil, features two installments of five trees each in an outdoor setting behind the Garden’s Pavilion Gallery.
The garden provided a great backdrop for the exhibit as the trees blended naturally into the background.
Ponderosa pine against pine background
Vine maple against maple background
Although it might seem the trees would blend in too much with the background, this was far from the case as each tree was framed by origami-inspired structures designed and built by Ryan Neil.
Display stand framing a Western red cedar
The wood and metal structures offered visitors 360 degree views of the bonsai on display while keeping the trees just out of reach.
Display stand base
Signage for the exhibit matched the display stands well.
About the artist
Species description and range map for Ponderosa pine
Species display stand
The exhibit also included one of Neil’s most notable trees – a Rocky Mountain juniper with spectacular deadwood.
Rocky Mountain juniper
From the left side
The exhibit, while small, struck me as impressive for several reasons. The trees were good. The design and sheer scale of the display tables made me feel like I was at an art exhibit and that attention deserved to be paid to the trees within. And the laser-etched wood panels and exhibition catalog provided context and gave the event a professional feel. It was great to visit an exhibit that so clearly conveyed the the idea that bonsai is an artistic endeavor to be taken seriously.
I also appreciated that helpful staff were on hand to watch over the trees and answer visitors’ questions – thanks Tony! – which helped make the exhibit accessible and added an interactive element to the event.
Tony Cardoza – Mirai Garden Director
For more photos from the exhibit and a video interview with Ryan, see Eric’s post on Phutu, “Ryan Neil’s ‘Unbridled’ Show @pdxjapanesegdn.”
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