Past Exhibits

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Satsuki Azaleas • May 27 - June 5 2016

satsuki-exhibit-1Would you be upset if your white azalea produced a few red flowers? In bonsai, unexpected flower colors are prized as reminders of nature’s unpredictability. Satsuki azaleas are a native Japanese azalea, Rhododendron indicum, which carries unstable color genes.

Satsuki azaleas have been favorite plant material for bonsai for centuries. They have good branching structure and are naturally small in size. The wide variety of colors and patterns in the blossoms attracts many enthusiasts.

Long after your other azaleas have dropped their blooms, you can enjoy bonsai azaleas. The name Satsuki (sats-key) in Japanese means “5th-month” in the old-time lunar calendar and refers to the later bloom time – the month of June in our modern calendar.

In Training: The bonsai photography of Stephen Voss • May 2016

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A photographer who specializes in portraits that are published in such high-profile news outlets as Time, Wired and The Washington Post, Stephen Voss is using that talent to create portraits of bonsai. His new book, In Training, features beautiful images of trees from the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum collection. His book is now available for purchase at http://bonsaibook.net/.

 

No Holes Barred: Potomac Viewing Stone Group Exhibition • January 24 - March 27, 2016

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Inspired by the Asian traditions of stone appreciation, members of the Potomac Viewing Stone Group exhibited members’ stones from China, Japan, Europe, and North America. All the stones in the exhibit featured holes formed by natural forces.

 

 

 

 

The 3rd National Juried Bonsai Pot Exhibition • June 12 - August 30, 2015

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The 3rd National Juried Bonsai Pot Exhibition
Since the last National Bonsai Pot Competition in 2002, the number of potters making quality bonsai containers in the United States has increased significantly.  This exhibition at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum not only features the work of many well-known potters but also introduces to the public a new generation of talented artists.

To read all about the 3rd National Juried Bonsai Pot Exhibition click here.

Ikebana International • April 4 - 21, 2014

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Exhibit: Ikebana International 
Enjoy spring flowers with a Japanese twist! Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arrangement, a disciplined art form steeped in the philosophy of developing closeness with nature. Washington D.C. Chapter No. 1 of Ikebana International will exhibit flower arrangements representing a variety of ikebana schools, from traditional to contemporary. The installation will change three times during the exhibit, so plan return visits to see them all.

Year of the Rabbit, A New Year Stone Exhibit • January 29 - March 27, 2011
What do Albert Einstein, Angelina Jolie, and Prince Charles have in common? They were all born in a Year of the Rabbit, which comes around every twelve years according to the Asian zodiac. People born during a Rabbit Year are said to be wise, gentle in spirit, creative, and cautious. Like the rabbit, they hop over obstacles and always land on their feet!

In Asian countries and communities around the world, the Year of the Rabbit begins this year on February 3, 2011—New Year’s Day in the lunar calendar. Since ancient times, the first new moon of the year has marked not only the beginning of a new year in the affairs of people, but a rebirth of life in the seasonal cycles of nature.

At the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum, we celebrate the renewal of nature that is at the heart of the Asian New Year traditions through bonsai and related art forms like viewing stones. When we bring miniaturized versions of ancient trees and majestic mountains into our living spaces, we may experience and reflect on the grandeur of nature, the changing seasons, and our own place in the universe. Our Lunar New Year exhibit celebrates these connections with a variety of New Year symbols and a special stone exhibit featuring rabbits. Happy New Year!

Autumn Arts of Nature • September 26 – November 29, 2009
A bright autumn moon –
in the shade of each grass blade
a cricket chirping
Yosa Buson (1716-83)

With just a few descriptive words arranged in a haiku, the Japanese poet touches on the essence of autumn. In similar fashion, this exhibition made use of natural “objects” distilled from nature to stand in for the evocative words of a poem. Bonsai with leaves of fiery hues, stones with patterns of chrysanthemum flowers, small plantings of autumn grasses—each of these objects alone can suggest autumn. Yet, when they are arranged into artistic groupings or accented with artwork, our poetic response is intensified. In the Autumn Arts of Nature, we are celebrating the beauty of autumn.

How do they do that? by Aarin Packard
As the Assistant Curator of Collections at The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum I get asked this question a lot.

Many think that it requires years of study and a Ph.D, in botany to create a bonsai; or maybe there are secret techniques used to keep them small.

But the truth is, that by following a few basic principles, anyone can create a bonsai.

Please join me, as I show you how to transform a crapemyrtle, previously used for genetic research at the Arboretum, into a bonsai.

Click here for a PDF

SUISEKI FROM THE KEYSTONE STATE
The stones featured in this exhibit were all collected just to the north of the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum, in Pennsylvania—the Keystone State. Many of the stones are jaspers or serpentines in colors of black, red, brown and yellow.

They are fragments of sedimentary layers deposited on the bottom of the ocean hundreds of millions of years ago, before the pressures of continental drift pushed the ocean bed up into mountains. Found mainly in valleys, streams and old river beds, they have been sculpted by forces of glacial movement and water erosion over millions of years. What makes these stones different from the other stones in Pennsylvania? They have been discovered, appreciated, and presented as works of art by noted collectors of suiseki, Jim Hayes and Sean Smith.

Suiseki refers to an old Japanese art form where small, naturally shaped stones are viewed as miniature landscape scenes or objects from nature. Like an iceberg, a potential suiseki is rarely entirely visible to the seeker. Collectors may turn over hundreds of stones before they find one suitable for display as a suiseki.

The stones of Pennsylvania tend to have a complex, tactile surface quality suggesting old weathered mountains. This is the most important aspect of a good suiseki—that it conveys a sense of great age, just like a good bonsai!

Jim Hayes & Sean Smith
Pennsylvania Suiseki Collectors

Since 1987, Jim Hayes of Broomall, Pennsylvania, has been a collector of suiseki stones. Like most collectors, he was introduced to this captivating aesthetic through bonsai, the well-known Japanese tradition of shaping diminutive trees. He was a founding member of the North American Viewing Stone Society and edited their quarterly magazine Waiting to be Discovered, published from 1996 to 1999.

Sean Smith is a master woodworker from Marysville Pennsylvania, where he owns Custom Oriental Wood-craft. He combined his background in carpentry with his passion for bonsai and suiseki to start his own business in 1994. He is well-known by bonsai and suiseki enthusiasts all over the world for his display tables and carved daiza – the customized wood base for viewing stones. Sean makes frequent trips to Japan to perfect his skills, learning traditional methods from Japanese master artisans.

Beyond the Black Mountain • Color, Pattern and Form in American Viewing Stones • September 4 – October 13, 2008
The appreciation of natural stones as art objects comes to the West from Asian cultures. In North America, the first viewing-stone collectors were the Japanese Americans who also introduced the art of bonsai. They collected stones here just like the types they had found in Japan, in particular, stones with shapes suggesting mountains.

Black Mountain stones typify suiseki, the natural landscape stones of Japan. Beyond the Black Mountain is a metaphor to illustrate the evolution of American viewing stones as a more diverse art form including stones with unique patterns, colors and shapes not found in the centuries-old Japanese tradition.

Further breaking with tradition, the stones in this exhibit are displayed in a number of thematic scenes. This is an innovative approach promoted by the collectors, Jim and Alice Greaves. They are creating a new context in which to collect and display viewing stones.

Spring Kusamono Exhibit • May 10 - 18, 2008
ABOUT KUSAMONO Kusamono are potted arrangements of wild grasses and flowers in unique pots or trays. The name is composed of two Japanese characters: “grass” and “thing.” Originally, this name referred to the small, potted grasses displayed with bonsai as companion plants.

More recently, kusamono has developed into an art form of its own. A well-chosen kusamono reflects the season in which it is displayed. Some compositions are designed to include plants that will look good in several seasons. Besides the season, a kusamono should suggest a specific natural habitat–such as a wetland, meadow or woodland. Whether using a single plant or a group of plants, there are three basic styles of planting: moss-ball, out-of-pot, or in a container.

This exhibit features plant compositions designed by Young Choe pictured below.

Korean Viewing Stones Exhibition • February 7 - March 5, 2008
For centuries, people in Asia have contemplated natural stones for creative inspiration and meditation. Large stones were incorporated into gardens to suggest distant landscape features. Smaller viewing stones, prized as natural artwork, were displayed inside on carved wood stands or in shallow basins filled with water or sand.

Viewing stones were typically found in surging rivers or along rough coastlines—anywhere wind, water and other forms of natural erosion slowly smoothed and shaped stones over thousands of years. The end results are stones of unique, recognizable shapes such as mountains, figures, or animals.

In Korea, viewing stones are called Suseok (“sue-suk”), a word which was originally written with two characters meaning “water-stone”, referring to the ideal, weathered quality of a good stone. More recently, the first character has been changed so that – although it has the same pronunciation — the term means “longevity-stone”, an object of endurance worthy of veneration in Korean culture.

Chrysanthemum Moon Exhibit • September 21 - October 22 2007
Chrysanthemum Moon – The crisp days of autumn are particularly marked by harvest festivals, celebrations of the full moon, and chrysanthemum-viewing excursions. “Chrysanthemum Moon” is the poetic name for the ninth month in the traditional lunar calendar, a time when most other flowers wither under the onslaught of frost and icy winds. Originally noted for health-giving properties, wild chrysanthemums were first used in traditional Chinese medicine. Drinking chrysanthemum wine on the 9th day of the 9th month was believed to prolong life because the flower symbolized endurance.

In Japan this auspicious day was celebrated as the Chrysanthemum Festival – one of five sacred festivals observed by the Emperor and his court. Throughout the month they drank warmed sake with floating chrysanthemum petals, wrote poems about the flowers, and purified their bodies with the dew collected from the petals. From the time of Emperor Gotoba (1180-1239), the imperial family crest design has been a 16-petal chrysanthemum.

The chrysanthemum is native to China where it was first mentioned in texts dating back to the 7th century B.C. Its long history of cultivation in China and Japan resulted in thousands of different varieties of splendid color and unusual form. Chrysanthemums were exported to Europe from China in the latter half of the 18th century; however, it was not until they were exported from Japan in the late 19th century that they gained popularity with Western gardeners.

Bowie Bonsai Club Exhibit • September 8 - 16 2007
The Art of Kusamono • July 14-22, 2007
Kusamono are potted arrangements of wild grasses and flowers in unique pots or trays. The name is composed of two Japanese characters: “grass” and “thing.” Originally, this name referred to the small, potted grasses displayed with bonsai as companion plants.

More recently, kusamono has developed into an art form of its own. A well-chosen kusamono reflects the season in which it is displayed. Some compositions are designed to include plants that will look good in several seasons. Besides the season, a kusamono should suggest a specific natural habitat–such as a wetland, meadow or woodland. Whether using a single plant or a group of plants, there are three basic styles of planting: moss-ball, out-of-pot, or in a container.

This exhibit features plant compositions designed by Young Choe and containers created by ceramic artists Ron Lang and his wife, Sharon Edwards-Russell.

Art in Bloom: Ikebana Arrangements • June 25- July 1, 2007
This exhibit features arrangements by members of the Japanese Embassy Sogetsu Group. It was curated by Sensei Sachiko Furlan.

Northern Virginia Bonsai Society • June 16-24, 2007
Trees from the collections of Northern Virginia Bonsai Society of the Potomac Bonsai Association members.

REFLECTIONS OF NATURE: STYLES IN BONSAI AND PENJING • May 12 – 20, 2007
Nature has always served as a source of artistic inspiration. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the art of bonsai. Through bonsai, an entire forest can be grown in the confines of a ceramic pot, or a mighty tree held in the palm of your hand.

The successful practice of bonsai includes the study of trees found in nature and the environmental forces that have shaped them. Through this, the bonsai artist can apply these observations and create a bonsai that represents the essence of a nature tree in miniature.

This special exhibit focuses on three popular bonsai styles: Informal Upright, Forest, and Driftwood. Each side is dedicated to one of the styles. As you view trees outside in the pavilions, look for examples of these styles.

Satsuki Azalea Bonsai
Satsuki Azalea Bonsai Would you be upset if your white azalea produced a few red flowers? In bonsai, unexpected flower colors are prized as reminders of nature’s unpredictability. Satsuki azaleas are a native Japanese azalea, Rhododendron indicum, which carries unstable color genes.

Satsuki azaleas have been favorite plant material for bonsai for centuries. They have good branching structure and are naturally small in size. The wide variety of colors and patterns in the blossoms attracts many enthusiasts.

Long after your other azaleas have dropped their blooms, you can enjoy our bonsai azaleas. The name Satsuki (sats-key) in Japanese means “5th-month” in the old-time lunar calendar and refers to the later bloom time – the month of June in our modern calendar.

Bonsai Invitational Exhibit featuring Three Local Artists • April 28 – May 6
The trees in this exhibition are from the private collections of local bonsai artists Janet Lanman, Jack Cardon, and Bill Orsinger. These three individuals have shared their knowledge of bonsai by volunteering at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum for a combined total of 66 years. You will find their individual stories in the left column. This exhibition celebrates their love of bonsai and dedication to our national Museum.

Lunar New Year
According to the old Chinese lunar calendar, the celebration of the New Year starts on the first day of the new moon and ends with the Lantern Festival fourteen days later at the time of the first full moon.

Traditionally, the Chinese New Year was known as the Spring Festival. New Years is a time in many cultures to begin anew with wishes of good fortune and happiness for the coming year.

In China, bad luck and evil spirits are driven away by dragon dances, firecrackers, and the color red. Oranges symbolize prosperity because the word for orange sounds like the word for gold in Chinese.

Peach, plum or wintersweet blossoms symbolize luck because the beautiful blossoms appear magically from bare, ugly branches. The fragrance of narcissus heralds a year of good fortune.

In Japan, it is considered good luck for your first dream in the New Year to include Mt. Fuji, hawks and eggplants. Decorations combining pine, bamboo, and prunus branches welcome good luck into the home. Known together as the “Three Friends of Winter,” they symbolize long life (pine), resiliency (bamboo), and perseverance (prunus.)

Best Wishes in the Year of the Boar

Mountain Stones Exhibit • January/February 2007
Winter Silhouettes • 2007
Before going into winter storage, deciduous trees selected from the permanent collection will be featured in a formal display. Without the cover of leaves, the elegant lines of trees will be prominent.

Enjoy this opportunity to appreciate the beauty of nature in the indoor comfort of the Special Exhibits Wing of the Mary E. Mrose International Pavilion at the Museum.

Viewing Stone Exhibits • 2006
Fall Foliage Exhibit • October 2005
Potomac Viewing Stone Group Exhibit • Collector’s Spring Exhibition
“Viewing Stone” is a modern term embracing several traditional Asian art forms where unusual stones, ideally shaped by natural forces, are selected because they represent “microcosms” – worlds in miniature – or capture the essence of the Earth’s life-energies.

Japanese suiseki (miniature landscape or object stones) and Chinese gongshi (scholar’s rocks) are traditionally displayed on an individually carved wooden base, in a ceramic container, or in a tray of sand according to long-established aesthetic conventions. Once shown only in temples or elite residences such as the palaces of nobles and scholar’s studios, they are now found in our homes and offices as well as museums around the world. These microcosmic “spirit stones” become objects for contemplation and meditation; they beckon us to embark on mental pilgrimages to special places, real and imagined, from our memories and dreams.

Viewing-stone collection, display, and enjoyment are becoming worldwide. American viewing stones reflect our desert and mountain landscapes and unique aesthetic tastes while still respecting the Chinese and Japanese traditions. Come join us – share our passion – and imagine yourself out in a mountain stream or desert canyon – perhaps a special personal place you know – where the perfect stone is waiting to be discovered.

Ikebana Sogetsu Exhibit
Sogetsu ikebana style is deeply rooted in Japanese tradition yet it embraces the modern age.

Sogetsu promotes an ikebana of no limits in which plant materials of any type are used to create sculptural compositions.