From the Archives: This post was originally featured in the May 2016 edition of The Garden Path magazine.
“It’s bonsai. As in ‘bone’ and ‘sigh.’”
But, artist Ryan Neil said he’s loosened up over the years on the issue of pronunciation.
“Bonsai” is a Japanese word, but the context for cultivating trees in shallow containers originated in China as an art form known as penjing. Penjing was a practice rooted in Buddhism that connected man to the environment and brought the spirit of wild places closer to home. It migrated to Japan with Buddhism, as a spiritual practice, and slowly evolved into bonsai under the influence of Japanese culture.
That connection of man to the environment is at the heart of the second Art in the Garden exhibition of the year (May 21st through June 19th). Titled American Bonsai: The Unbridled Art of Ryan Neil, the exhibition focuses solely on American species of trees, designed to directly reflect the character of American culture and the landscapes in which our culture has been formed.
“Much the same way penjing evolved into bonsai, we are witnessing another evolution in the way we use these tiny trees to express and embody our own American landscape and the spirit of American culture,” said Mr. Neil.