The Arts Page | Program | #710 — Natural Beauty

The Arts Page | Program | #710 — Natural Beauty


(cheerful music) – Looking at nature
and being in nature can provide artistic
inspiration. On this episode of The Arts Page on location at the
Lynden Sculpture Garden, learn how the Milwaukee
Bonsai Foundation and Milwaukee Bonsai Society are keeping an ancient
art alive and growing. Watch a wood turner in
Waukesha create beautiful bowls that preserve their
true, natural beauty. And, marvel at how Tibetan
Monks make a mandala of sand inside Milwaukee’s City Hall. That’s all coming up
now on The Arts Page. (cheerful music) Welcome to The Arts Page,
I’m your host, Sandy Maxx and this is Milwaukee’s
Lynden Sculpture Garden. Over 50 monumental sculptures
are on display here at the former home of Harry
Bradley and his wife, Peg. Harry was a co-founder of
the Allen-Bradley Company, and Peg became an avid
contemporary art collector in the 1960s and 1970s. Lynden Sculpture Garden
opened to the public in 2010. You can wander and discover
the dozens of outdoor artworks in the natural ecology
of their 40 acre site of park, lake, and woodlands. Next to Big Lake is
the Bonsai Exhibit, a collection of over 30 bonsai, curated by the Milwaukee
Bonsai Foundation. The Milwaukee Bonsai
Society shares with us the history and art behind these beautiful
living sculptures. (thoughtful music) – [Judy] Bonsai
means tree and tray, so any time you have
a tree in a pot, officially it’s a bonsai. Where people say I
have bonsai in my yard, unless they are in pots, it
does not fit the definition. [Jack] The Milwaukee Bonsai
Society was started around 1970, in fact, they’re celebrating
their 50th anniversary. It’s probably one of the bigger, more active clubs
in the Midwest, and none of this
that you see here would be possible
without their help. The Milwaukee Bonsai
Foundation is an organization that was set up to
create, own, and maintain a public bonsai collection here at Lynden Sculpture
Garden in Milwaukee. There are probably about 30,
32 trees in the collection. As far as I know it’s the
only public bonsai collection in the world that is in
a dedicated art facility. Bonsai is an art form, it’s
a very, very old art form. It uses living
trees as its media. It’s creating the
image of a large tree you would find growing in nature in a pot that you can
maintain in your own home. The earliest recorded history
we have of the art form is about 800 AD. We think that the
bonsai art itself started probably in China
when the landlords would travel around their property
they would see a tree that they liked,
had some character. They would dig it
up, put it in a pot, and put it in their garden. In about 11, 1200 AD, the
Chinese Buddhist priests were going to Japan and they
took their bonsai with them. So, that’s where it
got its start in Japan. So, after World War II
when the GIs were there, and they began to
see the bonsai, and that’s when it
started to become a worldwide hobby, if you will. You can use almost
any tree for bonsai. Anything that has a woody
trunk can be used as a bonsai. (thoughtful music) – What we like in bonsai,
we like to have a tree that looks like a big old
gnarly tree with character, and, as I get older I appreciate
that more and more. – The most common
question is, is it real? So they look at
them and they say how can that be
real, it’s so small compared to the trees
you see out in nature. It’s a regular tree, if you
planted this in the ground, it would become a large
tree after some time. They stay small because
we keep them in pots and we trim the roots
and trim the top and that keeps them small, and that allows them to
get a very large trunk while staying small. (thoughtful music) – Part of the art form and
part of the knowledge is figuring out how you can that
tree at the size you want it to look like an actual tree, so when somebody
sees it they say, oh yeah, that’s a tree, instead of that’s a stump
with a couple of leaves on it. – You work with the tree, you
take what the tree gives you, and you look at the
shape and you decide what direction
you’d like to go in. The next thing you
would do would be to remove any dead tree material, there’s dead leaves,
dead branches, and you have to decide
where in that mass is that art that
you wanna bring out. You would trim it and
then you would wire it, and you wire it to whatever
shape you want it in. – We use some specialized
tools as far as cutting goes. We’ve used some concave cutters
to help heal wounds faster. The Japanese specific tools, they’re really made
especially for minimizing the damage to the tree
when you use them, so that’s what we prefer
to use whenever we can. [Jack] We use wire
as a training device. We use wire like a
doctor uses a cast. We wrap it around a branch,
then we can move the branch, and move it around a little bit, twist it, turn it,
take it up and down, and as the branch grows,
it puts on more wood, then it will hold that position
when we take the wire off. – This is always the
interesting part, when you put the wire on and
then you go to bend the branch and you hope that you don’t
hear a loud cracking sound, which tells you that you
made a big mistake somewhere. (thoughtful music) It is really quite surprising the extent to which a
properly wired branch can be manipulated and moved. (thoughtful music) – If I were to show
this I would need to clean up a lot of the foliage. You’d like to see definite
layers in here, and, we have some of our
bonsai artists who say that we would like
to see this open so a bird can fly through it, rather than just having it
look like a big ol’ shrub. (thoughtful music) – What do I need to
do to this tree now, to get it to that
vision, at the end, and that might be three, four,
five years down the road? So, even the most
seasoned bonsai artists and the most experienced
have the same outlook. It’s, this is what I want the
tree to look like right now. Next year, two years down
the road, it may change. – [Judy] It’s a
living sculpture. Bonsai’s a living sculpture,
so it’s never really done. You wanna maintain it, if you
wanna keep the size the same then you have to prune it. You will re-pot it
every few years. – Trees an only
take so much work that you do on them at one time. You can’t pot a tree and trim
a tree too much all at once, otherwise the tree
might not live. It’s not something that
you’re gonna finish in a day. This is a long term adventure. [Jack] We make a cut
today hoping that tomorrow it will do something
and it will grow into the shape that we
want it to grow into. Bonsai artists are always
working with the future. – The members of the
Milwaukee Bonsai Society shared some additional knowledge about the care and
maintenance of the bonsai. – Working with someone
who’s new at the art form, they’re gonna have to
learn about the tree, they’re gonna have to learn how to take
care of the tree first before they can make it grow. (thoughtful music) – The bonsai rely upon
the owners totally for water, for food, for any
type of pesticide or fungicide. So, this is not like
putting them in the ground. The soil in bonsai
is very porous. We like to have it well-drained. It’s not organic soil. – This is called akadama. This comes from Japan and
it’s a very hard clay, but it’s very porous
and allows the roots to grow through those rocks. This dirt is not really the
best for growing bonsai in, because it’s very easy
to overwater the tree, and drown it and kill it. The nebari is where
the main trunk starts to flare
out from the roots. – We want to have
a nice root flare to make sure that it looks nice
and stable and some motion. – So this is really just
getting the tree ready for what we call the next insult. It’s one insult
at a time, which, this is exposing the top roots and finding out
where the tree is, maybe doing a little
bit of root pruning, just to get some of the
surface roots off of there and really get it prepared
for the next insult, which is re-potting it, and that’s a major
impact to the tree, that’s why we wanna do
that when they’re dormant, to minimize any
damage to the tree, and so it’s not so hard on it. – And being in a pot,
that will expose the roots to the cold much more than
if the tree is in the ground. So, trees that would normally
be hardy in Wisconsin, if we put them in a pot, they will probably need
some extra protection. During the winter
they don’t need such high amounts of water. You don’t wanna give
them too much water, their roots will get bad. – Here’s a little
dead twig right there. (thoughtful music) So, I just have to be
careful when I do it, that I’m not cutting
something I wanna keep. This one right here, see that? There are no leaves on it,
and there are no buds on it. It’s still viable,
so I’ll leave it, because if it’s dead and
I bend it, it’ll break. And, it doesn’t break,
so it’s still okay. Basically it’s
routine maintenance. It’s very fussy, but
it really contributes to the look of the tree
when you get it done. (thoughtful music) – You can see the Milwaukee
Bonsai Collection on display at Lynden Sculpture Garden
from May through October, and individual club
members’ bonsai each year during the Wisconsin State Fair
in the Grand Champion Hall. Learn more about the
Milwaukee Bonsai Society at their official website:
milwaukeebonsai.org. This public artwork was added to the Lynden Sculpture
Garden in 2016 and is called “Eliza’s Peculiar
Cabinet of Curiosities”. Visitors are encouraged
to enter and explore this full scale structure created by Chicago
based artist Fo Wilson to resemble a slave cabin. The fictional Eliza that
this sculpture is named for, she’s a naturalist,
anthropologist, and a collector of curious found objects,
inviting people to step inside and experience history
in a unique way. Our next artist is preserving
nature in his own unique way. Scott Boris is a wood
artist in Waukesha. He transforms logs into
natural edged bowls with particular care to preserve the true
character of the trees. He shows us his
process and shares why he now only chooses to
work with Wisconsin woods. (chainsaw buzzing) – I can make a bowl
out of any log, but not every log will
make a really neat bowl, ’cause I wanna
capture that stuff that God already
put in the tree, I would love to capture
that in my piece. (upbeat pop music) I am Scott Boris. I am a wood artist. I just started as a small, stuff that we needed for the
house, plus for other people, and then the turning came
in when I got a lathe and I just thought
I could do something with small chunks of wood. (upbeat pop music) It’s literally taking a chunk
of wood and spinning it, and cutting off everything
that’s not a bowl. Carvers, I think can make
shapes that we can’t do, ’cause we’re kinda still
stuck with the rounder shapes, but it’s a lot quicker, because
while that thing’s spinning, I can go (makes whooshing
sound) and send shavings flying, and it’s very quiet, it’s
not a turn on the table saw and put on your
hearing protection, you just get the sound
of the wood being cut. It is rhythmic, sometimes
I have to be careful, turning too long, I get
a little hypnotized, ’cause it’s (makes
clicking sound) and you get the repetitiveness. (wood clicking) It’s very relaxing, I think
that’s one reason I do this is, it’s a way to relieve stress; make a big pile of sawdust
and the stress goes away. (wood clicking) So, if I split it there… Oh! That works out well. And this tree just
grew last week. (hammer banging) There you go. And this’ll give
you the high points, and then the low
points on those bowls. Yeah, about right in there. Well, that’s the hope. Maybe I’ll take that in
and we can start with that. I don’t start with a
certain shape in mind, because it’s depending
on the piece of wood. I like to turn stuff
when it’s green, so, you could literally go
out and cut a tree down, take a piece of wood,
put it on the lathe, you can make a
bowl the same day. You can’t use it,
’cause it’s wet. I know the stuff I’m turning
is harvested properly. I’m not cutting the tree down
because I wanna turn a bowl, the tree already came down. A lot of the wood I get comes
from other people’s firewood. I need something
that’s long enough, so I may have to lose up to
six inches off either end to cut off the cracks,
and then I’m looking for limbs and other defects that
I might be able to capture. I had testicular
cancer a few years ago, so if I can find
tumors on a tree and turn them into
stuff, to me that’s like, that’s kinda fun, after
what I went through. Then cut it up into a blank because my lathe can only fit
a 20 inch diameter something, and then I have to
whittle that thing down so it’ll actually spin. (wood clicking) The tools we use
are fairly long, so that we have more leverage. Once I kinda get
it up on the lathe, then I need to create
when they call a tenon, it looks like a
little hockey puck, and it allows me to use
something called a chuck, and it grabs on to that bowl and then start working
on the outside shape and get it to where I want it. Then it’s just shape,
it’s just whittling it until you get the right
shape, and then dry it. So when I turn my bowl,
that’s not the final shape, as it dries it’ll shrink,
and usually it’ll warp, and get a little bit longer,
because of the shape, and then I deal
with it after that. (drill buzzing) After they’re dry, then I do
a lot of sanding, shaping. I’ve got some fairly
aggressive stuff that makes clouds of sawdust. A lot of my final sanding
is done off the lathe, which is a little
untraditional, because, I like the oval shapes. People try to figure out,
how do you make an oval, when I’m spinning it and
it should be a circle. But it’s a lot of the
wood drying process. So, everything’s done in my lap, sanding with different
things that I found and putting the finish on, I don’t
wanna have sanding marks. I think Wisconsin has a wonderful mix of
different woods to use. I have no desire
to turn anything from outside Wisconsin
anymore, just because, I think Wisconsin’s
got a perfect climate for the right types of wood. So, I love telling people
where their stuff grew, kinda have that
connection, that story, that’s important to me. I would love to have
the bowls stay empty. If I can find some cool
shape in a bowl that you don’t wanna
cover up, then I win. So, I leave that up to
people how they use it, but if they don’t
use it for anything, I think that’s cool too, because what’s on the
tree is fun to show off. I think this is a
cool way to take something that other
people burn for firewood, and make art out of it. (mellow music) – In Scott Boris’ words, telling the story of a
tree one bowl at a time. You can see more
photos and videos of Scott Boris’ natural
edged, wood-turned bowls on his official website:
greenwoodturnings.com, or on his Facebook page,
facebook.com/greenwood.turnings. This monumental abstract
sculpture is titled “Ancestor”. It was created by the late Japanese modernist
sculptor Masayuki Nagare. Nagare believed that
stones embody spirits. “Ancestor” is sculpted
from black granite with parts of the stone
rough and untouched, while other parts are
polished to a high finish. This work begs to be touched, and Nagare meant for it
to be fully experienced, and in nature, artists can
be inspired by everything, from great big rocks,
to tiny grains of sand. Also, patterns found in nature. Recently the Tibetan Monks of the Drepung Loseling
Monastery visited Milwaukee, and they spent a week at City
Hall creating a sand mandala. Their precise and captivating
meditative process involves laying down layers
of brightly colored sand with intertwined
symbolic patterns. (monks chanting) (chimes and drums playing) [Sandy] With ceremony and
reverence the Tibetan Monks of the Drepung
Loseling Monastery prepare the sand
that will become an intricately crafted mandala of ancient spiritual symbols
and geometric patterns. (chimes and drums playing) Created over three days, the mandala’s design
promotes peace and healing. (chimes and drums playing) Just as important
as its creation, the ritual of destroying
the sand mandala is a reminder of the
impermanence of life, and the blessings to those that
have experienced its beauty. (chimes and drums playing) Find out more about mandalas
created out of sand, a fascinating artistic
tradition, still carried on by Tibetan Monks when
you go to this website: tinyurl.com/SandMandalaPainting. Have you been inspired
by all the natural beauty of bonsais, bowls, and mandalas
you’ve seen on today’s show? Do you have suggestions
for other local artists or arts organizations you’d like to see
featured on our show? We’d love to hear from you. Please call us at 414-797-3760 with your story ideas
and your comments. If you can’t wait to see another
episode of The Arts Page, you can stream any of
our previous 200 episodes and learn more about
our show online when you visit the
Milwaukee PBS website, at milwaukeepbs.org, and
click on The Arts Page. You can find Milwaukee
PBS on Facebook too. Special thanks to the staff here at Lynden Sculpture Garden
for their hospitality and their commitment
to sharing art and natural beauty
with our community. See more of the Lynden
Sculpture Garden collection and exhibitions here in person and online at their website:
lyndensculpturegarden.org. I’m Sandy Maxx, thank
you for watching, and I invite you to
join us next time for another half hour full
of art on The Arts Page. (upbeat pop music) Milwaukee PBS, working here,
it really is a community, and it’s fun to chat
with other producers of the other shows,
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Black Nouveau; we all have the same
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hearing people come up to you and go I watch your
show, I really enjoy it, that’s meaningful and that
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is a community, not
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