Shore Pine Display at Pacific Bonsai Expo ‘22

This one needs some explanation. It was another of my vague ideas that needed reinforcements to execute.

In late spring my friend Erich and I took stock of this Shore Pine, which at the time was attached to a metal post. It’d been styled a few years back.

“So. I want to make a moveable stand for this. Also metal.” I looked at Erich. He didn’t yet appear to think I was nuts.

I made some gestures with my hands, “A swoopy thing …here…then a … counterweight over here…attach it…here-ish.” I stood back. “And maybe about this high.” I looked worriedly at Erich. He was curious. I brightened. 

“Thoughts?” 

“Ya, a lot of them.”

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Erich Raudebaugh at our first session, sketching out the moveable metal stand for this Shore Pine. If you look closely you can see a pine cone we’d dissected with a knife, to look at the individual scales. These Erich abstracted into the stand “arm” that supported the pine. Our pine is sitting at an undignified angle to the left.

Over the next few months Erich and I met several times to discuss what a “swoopy thing” was. How heavy the counterweight should be. How high. The type and color of the metal. 

Everything changed several times. 

We talked about the triangular pine cone scales that he’d abstract. How thick the metal would have to be. The patina. 

It helped that Erich is an architect. That he loves weird projects. And that he loves to weld. This went through two iterations to get one that looked good and supported the tree without bending over like a bow. 

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Several photos from the Expo with the completed stand, and full display, from different vantage points. The counterweight is 50-60 lbs. Small aluminum sculpture to the left. More on him later.

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Closeup of the tree at the show. I heard many photographers say this was nearly impossible to shoot, the light always wonky from the high windows. I rather liked the light for its atmospheric mystery. The last several shots were by Vince Smith. 

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Our box setup to transport the pine to Oakland, California for the Expo. The tree is on a 3-D printed slab, yet another story.

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This is an aluminum sculpture I made back in college. Golly, over 30 years ago. Lost styrofoam casting…not something to get downwind of when pouring in the aluminum. The styrofoam sculpture was set into sand and when the molten metal went in it vaporized, leaving the texture of the sand. 

As for what the heck I was thinking, well, that’s another matter.

For a long time I’ve wondered if the stalwart, noble survivor of life’s storms storyline that we attach to yamadori conifers is the only one. When I look at them, yes, they do communicate this. The shari lines, the jin. Pretty tough plants.

But yamadori also suggest vulnerability. And frailty. That such tree heroes experience the world as most of us do—that it’s hard, and that it might end us—seems the second part of that storyline.

And so I thought again of a cantilevered presentation, as I’ve tried a few times in the past. With a counterweight. The weight holding the tree back from falling over and succumbing to the forces that would destroy it. An admission of mortality. That an old tree isn’t around forever. 

The metal feels cold to me. Which to me supports—literally and figuratively—the bare fact that life is tethered to its opposite. 

Well. It’s not exactly a great Marvel script, but that’s what I was thinking. There may be other interpretations. 

For the original post about the styling this pine, try this post

Also, the pine is on a slab, but it’s no ordinary slab…it’s on a 3-D printed slab. Here’s that story.

And a short video of this for the full experience: 

8 Comments

  1. Philip Klar says:

    Great work of art and outstanding display…! A real abstract living sculpture ,not comparable to anything else, except Brancusis approach not showing a bird but its expression in flight. Or different, not a nice rose but it’s scent charming lovers…

  2. Ray says:

    Thanks Michael, I always enjoy the thoughts that are behind a project and how it was achieved. Well done👍👍👍👍👍
    Ray

  3. baysailor155 says:

    You completed the picture with your yamadori analysis of life and death. To cut off the circle, to leave death put, weakens the depth of experience, connection we can have with our plants. Once again you help us stretch, using the beauty and tenacity of these trees as a metaphor for our own lives. Thanks to you Michael, and to you and your welder friends wonderful execution of the Shorepine display at Pacific Expo. Barbara Phillips

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  4. Tony Redfern says:

    The backstory is wonderful. I get it now! 🤣

  5. June says:

    Michael, this was one of the most thought-provoking trees of the entire exhibit! Kudos to you & Erich. Loved it!

  6. Michael Scott Westervelt says:

    Congratulations to you Michael for your vision, and to Eric for his part in the execution of this composition, we were thrilled to be able to attend the PBE, this display was definitely the most thought provoking display at the show.

  7. Roger says:

    Michael. This is bonsai ‘art’ at its best. I know the shore-pine (if you mean P contorta var contora), from west coast Vancouver Island. I’ve studied its cousins in the Rocky Mtns – quite another tree form for sure. The use of abstracted forms from the cone scales to shape the arm of the stand is brilliant. The way the tree floats in space opens the mind to so many thoughts. The bog habitat of the shore-pine, with its contorted branches, shaped by the acid bog and the storms and mists rolling in from the Pacific -speak of the ethereal escape from the tight constraints of its ‘home’. Well done to both you and Erich.

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