“Captain Hook” bonsai – photo courtesy of Pacific Bonsai Museum

After a year and a half of operating as an independent non-profit organization, the Pacific Bonsai Museum in Federal Way has announced its first acquisition. A Sierra Juniper, crafted by by bonsai artist Ryan Neil of St. Helens, Oregon, boasts some of the most unique deadwood seen on a bonsai of this type.

The acquisition was made possible by a gift from The Greater Tacoma Community  Foundation.

“This gift marks the beginning of a new chapter for the Museum and for American bonsai. This Sierra Juniper not only builds on the existing strength of our collection, but takes it in a new direction by acquiring an American work with a modern aesthetic,”said Aarin Packard, Museum Curator.

The Sierra Juniper is named for the mountain range it naturally inhabits. Due to the harsh environment junipers grow in, they develop very interesting and beautiful deadwood. The quality of a juniper bonsai is based on the age and uniqueness of existing deadwood and how it is integrated with the remaining veins of living tissue called “lifelines.” On this tree, ancient ribbons of deadwood wrap around even older ridges and hollows, as jagged peaks of deadwood (resembling The Minaret range of the Sierra Nevadas) cascade down into a hooking fin spilling over the rim of the pot, giving the tree its nickname “Captain Hook.” The layers of blue-green foliage create rhythm and balance as the smooth cinnamon colored bark contrasts the rugged white wood emphasizing the determination of this tree to survive against all odds.

Artist Ryan Neil was born and raised in Colorado, where the twisted trees of the Colorado Derby Mesa served as an early source of both material and inspiration. He studied horticulture at California Polytechnic State University, and then spent six years in Japan studying under Masahiko Kimura, one of the most revolutionary figures in contemporary bonsai. In 2010, after completing his apprenticeship, Neil settled in Oregon to begin building his current bonsai business, Mirai. This is his first piece to enter the permanent collection of a public bonsai museum.

“I’m honored to be a partner in raising the level of artistry and awareness in American bonsai. As American bonsai advances and starts to form its own identity in the world bonsai climate, the confines of our quest for a uniquely American identity are falling away and opening doors towards a progressive evolution of bonsai culture in the United States,” Neil said.

Curator Packard concurs. “The art a museum chooses to acquire is a statement about their identity. Part of Pacific Bonsai Museum’s identity is to grow the art of bonsai by supporting American artists,” Packard said.

 The Pacific Bonsai Museum began as the Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection in 1989. It was opened to the public on the grounds of the Weyerhaeuser Company headquarters in Federal Way, in conjunction with the Washington State Centennial celebration. In 2013 Weyerhaeuser gifted the entire collection to a new non-profit, The George Weyerhaeuser Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection, now known as the Pacific Bonsai Museum. The collection features outstanding bonsai from the Pacific Rim nations of Canada, China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and the United States.
Posted 7/13/2015