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Artist Profiles

Artist Profile: Nick Lenz

with Andy Rutledge | Photos by Andy Rutledge

This interview was first published in The Bonsai Entusiast Journal in 2001. It holds some of the most profound wisdom available to budding bonsai artists and so is republished here in an effort to preserve Nick's observations for our community.

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Nick Lenz

Andy Rutledge: Why did you first take up bonsai?

Nick Lenz: Because it was natural. It was implanted into my infancy and skirted throughout childhood and adolescence. The Lord waited until I could buy my own beer to slip me a couple of cheap black & white photos of real Japanese bonsai, and said: Do it kid. So I got into my jeep and went to another nursery that sold bonsai pots (I was living in a shack on a nursery run by drunken Germans). I hurried back with two large pots, fed the daily road-kill to the margay [ed. - one of Nick's exotic cats], swiped a couple of plants, and went to work instead of writing a term paper on annual bacterial succession in a dirty pond. I just did it as I eat and excrete and do other things. I was meant to.

AR: What sorts of trees were your first efforts? Are any of them still around?

NL: I moved here form Wisconsin 33 years ago with a whole mess of Siberian elm seedlings and a few diseased other bonsai. Within a year, however, I discovered the sylvan glades of the starved heifers and was collecting apples. Within another year, I was collecting horrid little larch trees form the spook land at the end of Canada, to which I return in the fall with two stout oafs - one to carry me and one to carry the beer.

The elms turned out to be design unstable. Despite many photographs of them in my earliest publications, I composted them all.

The apples were a joy and quickly got up to 78 in number before the Winter of the Vole, a horror film produced in Massachusetts. I then had under a dozen. Two remain.

I don't think any of the original larch remain, since I just sold them too, but there are plenty left from successive years of barren collecting.

What does remain is the original rock of my very first planting - azalea on rock. It died in California because its caretakers didn't believe in watering plants. Elms trees of a different kind adorn the base and someone stuck a lead Indian into the thicket. The second tree, a pine, died several years later when it became a perch for a wounded hawk and was probably over-fertilized. But rocks are hard to kill.

AR: You mentioned that the Siberian elms were design unstable. How so?

NL: They are a pioneer species. When you have spent years growing and refining them, planting them in a bonsai pot, and then reduce the high fertilizer input, the tiniest branches die. And then the smallest. And then some bigger ones. All the while, the alleged bonsai sends out new ebullient suckers from the trunk. I grow a couple of species that behave this way, but their trunks are worth the bother. Pioneer species are always to be avoided for bonsai.

AR: Who are or were your bonsai mentors and inspirations - or were you wholly self-taught?

NL: There was a little old Japanese lady in the area, a student of Murata's, who refused to tell me anything about bonsai except as occasional wry comments. Now that I am old, I remember all of them.

Books, how many books suggest the absolute truth about the only way to grow and design bonsai? Surely they are an influence.

The culture of bonsai, penjing, and other, as Ernie Kuo calls them, in this particular environment has to be self taught - everything I ever read on the subject was inadequate for the Valley of the Shadow. Most people are like that. A New Jersey student has his own local deer herd in his back yard and it does not mingle with those in the neighbor's yards.

My style has just happened, and derives from the overall appearance of trees in my parcel of nature and those in other parcels all around the country and world. When I visit a strange place, like Dallas or Death Notch, I look not for the difference in bonsai styling, but in wild forms - this is most revealing. As Jerry Stowell, the founder of ABS, once grumpily said about me "… no, Nick has done an amazing thing by creating an American idiom for bonsai…" He then turned around and hired a Japanese trained Gringo to work on his own collection.

Perhaps the greatest influence on my styling remains the European artists of the late 19th century who insisted on painting drama into each and every tree. I love to see these paintings in museums, passing up that which is fad. A mess of them came over here, hung out on the Hudson River before moving further inland, as far as Yosemite, and were known as the Hudson River School. I am Hudson River School by choice. Cool stuff, the same as I see in the Adirondacks.

AR: A certain German bonsai artist [ ed. - Walter Pall] once remarked to me that you seem to have a knack for being taken to be either a kook or a genius….

NL: Andy, if you get straight bonsai design down pretty good, are stuck at home caring for a dumb, crippled woman, are getting old and bored, you might just ask the question: What else might I do with this form of art before I petrify and die? Well, I am just beginning to find out, am finally finding myself exploring non-bonsai trained by bonsai techniques to non-natural forms. Form upon form, without any restrictions.

Now whom do we have in the bonsai world? The same percentage of anal compulsives as elsewhere, all bent on controlling exactly how everything should go. These tend to be bonsai-politicians. Anything imitative of the Orient is in. Praising the many good artists of Europe is forbidden - they are all white guys. Admiring the brilliant original artists in this country, such as the Robinson [ed. - Dan Robinson], is considered morally decrepit "…he doesn't even grow bonsai so we can write him off,"

The word 'kook' is not quite the right translation, nor is 'fool', although both are close in the European sense. The first German printing said 'Schelm', which I leave to the imagination of non-German speakers. I was already called that when a student there … - I refuse to ever tell you about my Texas-type escapades there as long as you remain my student. I had to play this part in Sydney at their Bimillennial Bonsai Bash, with original verse, and it was the only part of the skit that was total nonsense and that worked on stage - few props, just a helmet, a couple of wigs, and a bright red bathrobe.

AR: What did you mean by "The first German printing"? First printing of what?

NL: Herr Pall [Walter Pall] wrote an article for the German rag about me and therein called me a Schelm - a witty trouble maker, usually of the Court. When he translated it for BCI, he translated Schelm into "fool". Now, if you know the meaning of both words from 500 years ago, they are one and the same. Contemporarily, fool means loser, a dumb-dum. [A good friend] fussed mightily about this word usage, calling it insulting, but I know my language roots. So, we are speaking about different words. Surely I am a fooler.

If you take yourself so seriously that you cannot play with your imitative art, then you will find those who do to be kooks or worse.

In German, genius is 'geni', I think, and that is very close to 'Schelm.' Both Schelms and genis got themselves hanged or burned at the stake in the middle ages. The only reason we have Protestantism is because a few of them cleverly escaped the bonsai clerics.

AR: Describe the difference between American bonsai and Japanese bonsai.

NL: Japanese bonsai have a tight tradition, literally. Americans tend to use junk for bonsai material. It can rarely be as dense or controlled as the Japanese counterpart because Americans are lazy and vote for slogans instead of political records. American bonsai are like slogans, without substance. Fortunately, there is a good mess of talented, varying bonsai artists in this country in this age, but the mess is exactly that - it defines its own tradition in each locale. In general, a grade B Japanese bonsai will look better than a grade A American bonsai, mine included. It is in the care and detail. Bonsai growers in this country are not swarmed about by acolytes picking up pine needles and True Cigarette butts.

AR: So what if anything should we as good American bonsai artists do to improve the quality of our grade A bonsai?

NL: My success, as representatives from the "other" art world have always commented, is in refinement - constant vigilance and updating. Bonsai enthusiasts seem not to wish to bother with this. But indeed, a bonsai does not represent a miniaturization unless it looks like one.

Slogan of Lenz: Much better to have one bonsai bush in immaculate condition than 300,042 in sloppy repair. Every year, I select one to keep that way.

You know, Andy, that this particular micro-climate is a real bitch, perhaps like your hot prairie yard, and I am constantly fighting the randomness of what may happen tomorrow or happen during the night while I slept. I know there are many similar scenarios.

Andy, we work with life. Other artists have it easy; they have control over their process. We do not. Even the potters, during their mystery of firing control it mostly. We do not. A small funnel cloud or a large, antlered animal can work wonders for change. We must always use that which we did not want to happen to build something new, as best we can, and hopefully better. I suspect that this is exactly what Methodist Central would say about the world.

AR: I have heard that some don't know how to handle your trees… that your designs seem …different from what one usually encounters in the art. Do you perceive this difference? (see above ;-)

NL: Oh now Andy, here we get back to the question of what art entails. Americans living in the frigid zone, not Texas, all identify easily with my bonsai or penjing. They have the frame of reference. Northern Europeans have no problem either, nor do temperate Australians or northern Chinese.

My work has always looked to the tree forms in nature as guidance. I live in a cold place. Cold tree have an appearance different form those struggling in the desert draws or sweating in the southern swamps. We Yankee fatmouths know our trees are skinny, tall, and open, even when solitary in a cemetery. If the bonsai are not open, like real trees, then you cannot see the deliberately nurtured styling that takes so many years to produce.

As a former friend of the Jardin d'Botanique d'Montreal, I got to feel up the glorious contributions of bonsai made by the Japanese. I got to part branches and take a peek inside. What garbage!

Here is my crass presentation of the Japanese style: Two centuries ago, in Victorian setting, the good old art boys of Japan got together in a spacious back room to snort sushi and regulate this new, upstart art called bonsai bush. Seemingly, their regulations have stuck up to this day. Most Japanese bonsai are bushes on top of trunks. Kimura is a brilliant artist, but he still makes the bush, placing it inside of the deadwood extranea instead of on top of it. Europe is gung ho on imitation of Kimura, except for a few that develop their own interpretation of the environment, as the Robinson has here.

Everything in the Montreal Botanical Garden that came from Japan that was a conifer was a bush on top of a trunk. Inside, many branches shot out awkwardly to the bush canopy from each node, as in a deliberate Christmas tree.

When this tiny town's unsophisticated garden tour comes through here every 2 years, they love what they see, unless they are foreign yuppies from the college town of Amherst Then, as you say, they and their cell phones do not comprehend. The Methodist matrons at their annual Pot Luck Bible Class Banquet, most of them Midwesterners, are delighted at the realism of the scale reduction. The Congregationalists tend to ogle over the detail in the compositions and the difficulty of creating it, especially the clergy. Today I sold 2 major works to, yes, Virginia, a real Yankee fatmouth. He had no difficulty with northern styling. It was his thing.

So, real people, like the dwarf, fat janitor at the Boston Museum of Fine Farts, can say to his taller buddies: You know dis stuff is crap - cutesie oriental junk - but dis one here, dis one (patting the bulbous pot on a third century antique Chinese stand hauled up form the deepest of vaults for the occasion), dis one here, reminds me of da mountains. He had no problem with my work. It was not contrived in a sushi filled back room.

Art is for real people, not the critics.

AR: Well, if someone critiques a work of bonsai art based on some stylistic principles or conventions or doctrine, is the person now a critic and not one of the "people"?

NL: Andy, you know exactly what I mean. The critics of the art world, the wealthy matrons in bulging evening gowns and the males in baggy tweeds, the superior of the superior caste, like the critics of DC, are as spurious as our cat's claws. I am a janitor of the classical music world and I wish to reach the janitors of the entire world. We all judge as we enjoy or do not enjoy. Jesus assigned us another impossible task.

AR: I take it that you don't hold with the idea that art, a form of art, should be quantified?

NL: Of course not. Good art throughout history has become that by superseding the rules. Look at the cigarette billboards. What kid, driving by a Medieval, two dimensional ad showing completely robed stick figure cowboys, all with the same sullen, pious face, standing next to flat faced horses and eating beans off of a silver platter, would be spurred on to stop immediately and snap up a pack of Marlboros? Somebody broke the rules that had lasted for a good 700 years. And every board of governors that has reestablished rules has grumpily seen them thrown aside within their corporate lifetime.

Now I don't mean to imply that my work is good by this, but I have on occasion begun a tree's branching structure with a back branch or two. At times, I have jinned or eliminated the most important branch to leave a design conspicuous space. The Japanese do this too, but rarely - at least those who produce the most enticing bonsai break the rules. And the Chinese? Anything goes. As Peter Schikely says: "If it sounds good, then it is good."

Nick Lenz and Andy Rutledge
Above: My teacher and me in his display garden in Massachusetts.

AR: As to the virtues and evils of idealizing or idolizing Japanese bonsai forms, what about the standards maintained or presented in the better examples of Japanese bonsai - say, from those found at a Kokufu-ten? Do you remain unimpressed? Not your cup of tea?

NL: My cup of tea must taste good. One in ten Japanese bonsai is gorgeous and arresting. One in ten Monet's is the same, especially the early paintings, and one in ten sermons is pretty good. That is some sort of universal average of success, as I encounter it in and from others. Have you ever gone to a live opera and found that the singing sucked, despite the highly flaunted cast? Well, you were there in the 9/10ths time. Actually, this IS a pretty good ratio for success in the arts.

AR: You've mentioned an appreciation for Dan Robinson's work. What is he doing that captures your admiration?

NL: He puts forth, he displays works that excite my soul in a way few other works of art do. Maybe not on stage because stage giggers get junk to work on for the raffle phenomenon. At home, the Robinson uses very nice material and treats it as it requires to become stunning.

AR: What is your approach to bonsai styling?

NL: There is always music going on in my head, usually, not your kind. Well, trees can't sing but they can dance, or at least be captured in a snapshot during the dance, or hurrying away from somewhere, or sauntering by the beach, or getting ready to sit down, or just stretching after a large belch. Motion is the key and ideal of my styling. A bonsai is not something sanguine, stupidly frozen in time and space like a fat lady on the toilet, but a thing in motion, a being, a human being or beast doing something other than being stuck on a toilet. This places a very exacting criterion upon me - the entire tree must continue the beginning motion all the way to its peripheries. Every detail must be in harmony with the motion and can not be hidden by dense foliage. I spend years doing this - no quick fix for quick sale. Of all the people coming through the collection, only the ancient and lame Presbyterian minister sees the detail. One admirer is enough. He is the only wise man I know and not because of this.

AR: Nick, do you use grafting in your bonsai work?

NL: Sure. Who wouldn't where a branch is demanded in a key spot or a new top is required lower down on the trunk than any that are available? It is also sometimes cool just to change species.

I never attempt any style of "cut-off" grafts since their care is really hard on the host plant, which is usually old and very nice or it wouldn't be worth grafting on to. I have used thread grafting the most but also diagonal approach or cleft approach. While this is not my preoccupation, I suspect that I have a dozen or more trees undergoing grafting right now. It is just something else you do among many things without worrying about it a whole lot. It is like gorgeous, newly collected material or severe designing or midsummer transplants. You just do them with a reasonable amount of skill, place them in the appropriate follow-up care scenario, and then ignore them emotionally. Trees that are worried over too much tend to die.

AR: Do you favor clip-and-grow, wiring, guywires or do you just use whatever works in a given situation?

NL: All of the above, depending entirely on the situation. I will never take a limp, newly collected bush and immediately wrap it in dental wire to my ego satisfaction its guaranteed death. I may not even guy the most important branches. I may even look at it only out of the periphery of my eye for fear that it might have enough intelligence to perceive that I am planning a very dental future for it.

AR: What sort of fertilizing program do you use?

NL: Andy, how many stars are there in the sky and why do they always seem to be the same distance from you? The only absolute that I can suggest is that I have never peed on a bonsai. I also do not use the Japanese crumb cakes everyone loves so much because they are ugly; instead, I use Bunny Balls, collected from my gun toting auto mechanic's warrens. It is mild, plants love it, and it doesn't stink at all.

AR: What is your soil mixture of choice?

NL: Again, how many grains of sand are there on the beach? Collected plants may go immediately into very coarse or fine soil depending on the hunch about their survival reality. Drier type plants are grown in coarse soil in large containers, although they would prefer the fine. Fine soil plants are sometimes transferred to very coarse soil to develop stringy roots of great length for special purposes, and they don't like that at all. Medium tends to be the grade for mature plantings, but wee things may be planted in either coarse or fine. You must know each plant intimately. No rule holds for more than a growing season. Next spring, I am going to repot a Rocky Mountain juniper from coarse into very fine soil to see what that does. This is a topic for several lectures, and no one probably wants to know when you can buy one grade, the grade from the local supermarket below the birdseed.

My organic is from the local good-old-boys - eroded sawmill chips and planer shavings - or from the commercialists - raw, smallish orchid bark. I prefer the former because it is composting wood, but the particle size never gets above medium. The bark aspect, as much as people love it, can be detrimental to a mix. Bark is cheerfully impregnated with waxes and resins to prevent decomposition. When it does break down after a long while, it may release phenols and other toxic compounds that inhibit root formation. My attempts at composing orchid bark by itself over time seem to have failed, so I will probably give it up for Lent. It is perfect for orchids, as other bark products are perfect for ground mulch. What the bonsai really want is compost, or something very close to it.

AR: Nick, what do you do for insect control?

NL: I prefer to do nothing at all. However, one must be practical and so I hit up everyone in early spring with the most witch-cauldron roiling of brews. Then, I sit down again in my lawn chair holding a can of Raid House & Garden, a miracle product. Pyrethrums in an oil base propellant, and they volatilize instantly into a gas. They stop and turn a V shaped squadron of yellow jackets bearing down upon you at a rapid rate.

Most of what goes on here as infestations in an environment full of hungry birds and predatory bugs is minor - a sudden aphid culture on a quarter of a larch tree, a sawfly larval hatch on a branch of a pine. These are quickly dispensed with a slight spluttering sound. Borers and heavy infestations of strange things that come upon a plant, like one given to me recently, are best covered with an enclosing bag. The tiniest of "spraizaiz" sounds indicates that an effective gas chamber has been created. In other words, I do a minimum and let the most crass of commercial sounding products be my Summer assistant.

Like the rabbit poop I use for fertilizer, no one believes me because it is not scientifically severe enough, not Japanesey enough. However, it is a good thing to have happy bonsai and not be particularly diabolical about their care.

AR: How much energy do you devote to pottery these days?

NL: Oh, a lot, but minimal in mid-summer because great physical gyrations are to be avoided by old farts during this season. I am making some large elegant things now that the summer muggies are upon us and all the plants, except the hollow willow and the larch, have stopped growing for a while. Winter is long here, very long, and working on most frozen bonsai is an excellent way to kill off their branch structure. Pottery remains a third of my meager income.

AR: How did you first begin doing pottery?

NL: With glee. I always wanted to take a pottery course, but scientists are not allowed to do that. My last year in grad school, my major professor, a Nazi Mormon, went off to Europe, so no one read my course selection list for the year. I spent a lot of time in the pottery studio that year and accomplished close to an undergraduate's experience. Everything I made, to the disgust of the visiting teacher from RIT, had drainage holes.

AR: You seem to enjoy the odd interesting pot as well as a plain old slab for bonsai. In general, how do you decide which to use in a given instance?

NL: As with all weddings between tree and pot, I try the pot out blocked in front of the tree. If it looks right, then I place the tree in it and look again. If the pot complements the tree well, then it is the pot that belongs with it. Most mock-ups fail, but eventually something works - I have a large selection. It doesn't matter whether the pot is a regular Texan or a wild Italian. If it works, it works. The eyes, Andy, the eyes make that determination.

AR: What is your philosophy on sharing your knowledge?

NL: I have been a teacher since I was a kid. Some people are blessed with the gift of screwing over other for big bucks, some are gifted with extreme dexterity and savvy with a musical instrument, some are blessed with the simplicity of kindness. So I'm a teacher. Big deal. Everyone is gifted.

Teaching means exactly that - transferring knowledge, opinion, innuendo, style, or a challenge to be one's self and enjoy it more. I have taught in many fields at different times and still continue a bit. I still teach an advanced Bible class because no one around believes this document to be a work of art and anthropology.

With bonsai, a one-to-one experience using the student's material works best. This can be drawn out with a few, like 4, or far too many, like 10 rabid Texans where the demands to cut this or that exclude the reasons for doing such.

AR: And what is the motto of the Nick Lenz School of Bonsai?

NL: Look twice; cut once.

AR: Why do you shun the big national and international gatherings?

NL: Plastic. Place, food, people, format, and even beer. A staged event. The national or international focus on stage events are exactly that - an entertainment. I did consent to a Bimillennial Bash recently because it got me to Australia for free and accidentally hooked me up with one of Australia's best artists as a beer buddy. It was worth the last demo of root-over-bowling ball style, much poo-pooed by the Chinese celebrity.

AR: What are some of the things that you used to do in training and growing bonsai that you no longer do?

NL: The older I get, the more respect I have for that "cemeterial" passage in Ecclesiastes which states that there is a season for everything…

What I no longer do is rush developing material with my design intentions. Why meddle with something that might not live? Why refine something that is not defined enough for refinement? There will be time for all those things, but not until the plant is ready. The plant always leads. The male ego is the number one plant destroyer.

I also do not mess around with trees in the sun on days resplendent with southern air or at any time during Arctic blizzardry. This may read simplistic, but bonsai is a process, like life. I remember very many bad days of trying to remove this truck or that truck from a snowbank I insisted it could drive through. I willed it. I do not will bonsai any more so much as I think them up. They eventually happen, without spotlights or grand hurras. And I don't waste the time trying to force them.

AR: What from your past has been your favorite event or moment in bonsai?

NL: This may seem spurious to you, but it was the great fly moment. Once upon a time, Seattle invited me to make a fool of myself. I had arranged my air ticket to remain another week and go touring the big peaks in what had become perfect weather. My hostess offered their junked Volvo which could be push-started and then arranged a cocktail party for me every night with assorted old ladies' clubs. This was not my particular bag of worms, so I winked at Robinson in the audience as he gesticulated wildly about what I was doing wrong. It worked. He kidnapped me that very night to meet up with Denver boys in the Nowhere range of Wyoming at Edna's Born Again Motel.

We all have idiosyncrasies. On the way out of town, the Robinson, in the earliest hour of the morn, confronted the stupor market bakery broad and after ordering two dozen frosted donuts for four people, demanded that she take them back into the kitchen and frost them all again.

It was an interesting drive from town to the Nowheres. Dead cattle littered the roadside, suddenly uncovered by the sudden meltdown of the Winter's sever blizzards, and bloated in the unusual heat. The first flies of the false Spring swarmed about them.

The Nowheres were just that - ridges of junipers that rose not too much from red dirt. The Robinson raced to the top with his acolytes to bring down a huge tree with no roots. I just poked about slowly and methodically. In fact, I did that for a while, a long while as the crew came and went with one masterpiece after another - 5 foot, thousand year old rootless wonders. I was working on a few juveniles, about 300 years in age, still close to the red dirt where the honchomobiles were parked.

Well, the boys drove on up the draw to see if they could find more wonders on new cliffs while I stayed behind. As I came down to the vehicle-deserted red dirt, I spied a great cloud of flies buzzing about a certain boulder. Closer examination showed a twice chocolate frosted donut, covered by a mat of the cute insects, hovered over by an infinite mass waiting to land.

Hallelujah, I exclaimed at the sight of the chocolate, rubbed the flies off, and gobbled the donut. Hallelujah!

That's it, Andy. The flies of the Nowheres and the chocolate beneath them. I did not see God's face that day, but I certainly saw his butt and it was a joy to behold.

AR: Yes, surely ;-). Speaking of weird, Whatever happened to the Bonsai Broads?

NL: They went clandestine with the building of their great ecclesiastical ship… Actually, I was becoming too cynical about the parody of a bonsai club and thought to just stop it, in lieu of an educational web page that I have not learned to do because I am too busy growing bonsai. Really, dear child, I do not wish to waste my time doing anything else. NO NEW DISCUS FISH, even if Florida hatcheries approaches soon.

I suspect that the dear ladies are still swilling sherry not too far from my mountain holding. ON a clear day, I can see the Boquet form Lazarus Ledge… I swim in it if I am sweaty, even if it is difficult to find a place deep enough to submerge in. Lovely river. Its mouth heaved up my only aspen bonsai, a yacht tie up post. As the broads so aptly say - you can never imagine what you will find - like twice chocolate frosted donuts squatting in a fly herd in the middle of nowhere.

AR: I know that you raise or have raised discus fish? Why them?

NL: About 1/5th of reasonably talented bonsai geeks do raise or have raised discus fish. If not, then some other difficult but lovely species. It is the same kind of challenge - to maintain happy beauty in captivity. While I am not about to go scuba diving in the Amazon, I need wander only a comparative few feet from my back door to see many beautiful large trees I have watched grow for many years. Bonsai wins.

AR: So, what do you hope to accomplish in bonsai?

NL: Hah, I know the answer to that one - a smaller collection of smaller trees. I supposed that when I was a kid, I wanted to be the best in the world at everything I did. I also think that passing on some of my knowledge might be useful, but nobody in this country seems to care much - bonsai is a hobby, like the "glaze-your-own-moulded-smiling-fat-cute-cherubim-or Greek lady - or Easter bunny". Smiling! Even the molded horses smile.

AR: If bonsai is a hobby in this country, what do you believe is bonsai's place in society?

NL: Andy, bonsai is an art and all those of die Publik who can pick up on the living tree as a medium of expression, stylized and scrinched as it may be, float through a window beyond themselves. Now, kid, I have encountered some very peculiar art forms in my life, along with the museums chucked full of the traditional ones. When a person suddenly stops and says: Wow, then remains standing for an inquisitive or appreciative while, maybe sits down, maybe picks his nose or smokes a Marlboro, but indeed remains with the work, then his soul, the nature of his being, has become captured by something exciting beyond himself.

So, bonsai is no different than any other art form, and few take the time to look so that they can see and be captured by something more universal than their daily exploits or apathies. The Europeans have a vast tradition of art which is perhaps why they excel so much more than we Dubyites do, but few of them look. Most Asian and African cultures have art built into their daily ritual - it is not separable from life, but part of it. The ruination of small, ethnic peoples occurs when western Crassitolism smashed into them with the slogan: "Look, pretty beads and pictures. Electronic gadgets that go BEEP in the night." Art comes right back out the window and dies in the hot sun.

So, bonsai's place is anywhere you can get it, as long as it is art and not just a super market cutie. It is valid, when good like a VerMeer or a Homer or a Monet. It stops humanoids in their tracks, even if they were headed to the bathroom.

Nick in Texas in 2003

Review the crap that has happened to human beings this week that has been reported and realize that these reportings just touch the surface of the Press Conglomerate's need to jolt you a little bit but not too much that you won't take in the commercials. Review the mass mutilations, displacements, rapes and sodomies, and liquidations, and ask what is worth living for as a moral person in such a world of human predators? Well, bonsai are right there if they can be seen. Joe Campbell once said: "With the death of the Shamen, artists are the last interpreters of the Divine." Bonsai artists hang out in that category also. Many of them capture the Divine.