“It’s intriguing. I was intrigued.”
Peter Shinbach’s interest in Japanese art and culture started in high school. In college, he took every eastern Asian studies course available. He learned how to speak some Japanese while in the Navy and has always been interested in fiction and movies from Japan.
But, it wasn’t until he was killing time waiting for a train in New York City that he walked into the Asia Society building and discovered his true passion: bamboo art. When Shinbach describes Japanese sculptures and baskets, his infatuation for the art and his thirst to share it with others quickly becomes apparent. “Have you seen these pieces? Just seeing these artists do this and the amount of training they have – that’s when I really got intrigued.”
Soon after that day 25 years ago, Shinbach started collecting bamboo art. There are baskets and sculptures all over his house. “Mostly in the living room,” he laughed. Now, he is up to about 50 pieces in his personal collection which represents works created from the late 19th Century to the present; from baskets created primarily for flower arrangements used in Japanese tea ceremonies to very contemporary sculptural pieces. His collection includes several items created by 20th and 21st Century Living National Treasures.
“Because if you see some of these pieces, particularly the sculptural pieces – you think ‘obviously the artists had to draw it out and use a model,’ right? But, most of them don’t. It’s that level of intuitive knowledge,” he said.
Shinbach, a longtime tour guide and volunteer at the Portland Japanese Garden is sharing his bamboo art collection with the public so he can share his passion with others.
“I want others to see how artists can get such varied designs from something so simple as a big stalk of grass. And, how the Japanese have taken something which was originally another culture’s and they have, as they do with so many other things – turned it into something that is so uniquely Japanese.”