Tiny Trees, Big Joy: Bonsai as Living Expression

Bonsai trees are growing across Nippertown in enthusiasts’ homes, gardens and offices. The Mohawk Hudson Bonsai Society wants to expand the art of bonsai even further, inviting new members to their exhibit next weekend at The Albany Center Gallery on October 7th and 8th to learn more about the plants revered for their beauty, grace, and harmony.

Bonsai is the Japanese and East Asian art of growing and training miniature trees in containers, and while many grow them for aesthetic design, Buddhists believe they are objects for meditation. “It’s the idea of nature in miniature,” local bonsai artist Jon Stewart explained.

Stewart, who is also a musician and luthier, was first attracted to bonsai to practice communing more with nature. “I love the aesthetic, the art of it,” he shared. Stewart reached out to the club’s founder, Pauline Muth, to learn from her and purchase supplies about five to six years ago. “And I just fell in love with the club,” he admitted.

Muth helped start the club in 1968, and also had her own bonsai studio. Muth sadly passed away last September, but the club has lived on, continuing her traditions of teaching about bonsai. Meeting monthly to share knowledge, the club also offers a newsletter, “The Twig,” with helpful insights for artists. The club also offers consultations for artists learning about bonsai as well.

“Most people think of bonsai as cool little trees that live inside, but I quickly learned that generally the trees don’t live inside year round,” Stewart explained. Depending on the species of the plant utilized for the art, some trees need to winter outside, or have extra shelter if they are tropical.

“This is actually a fun time of year to show bonsai in particular,” Stewart reflected on the upcoming exhibit. “Some trees will be in full bloom, and some will be taking on the color of the season,” Stewart noted. “I’m showing a little crab apple that is in a winter silhouette.”

The other unique thing about the upcoming show is that those interested in learning about bonsai will see trees in development. “Some will be show ready, but others will be in all stages of growth,” Stewart promised. If viewers are inspired, supplies will also be for sale on site to start their own bonsai project.

Bonsai is an art that is often handed down from generation to generation, as caring for the plants requires both skill, knowledge, and time.

“Artists will be in and out all weekend, so if visitors have questions, club members will be there to help explore learning more about bonsai,” Stewart predicted. “We are sharing the space with a photography exhibit as well, so you can check that out too.”

The exhibit is free and open to the public on Saturday, October 7th, from noon to 5 p.m. and again Sunday, October 8th, from noon to 4 p.m. The Albany Center Gallery is located at 488 Broadway in Downtown Albany NY 12207. 

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