Traverse City Record-Eagle

Arts & Entertainment

February 22, 2013

Japanese bamboo art at Dennos

TRAVERSE CITY — Japanese bamboo art has taken many shapes since the eighth and ninth centuries,but a handful of Japanese artists have been turning what is often tough grass into graceful works of art for six decades.

“Modern Twist: Contemporary Japanese Bamboo Art,” a new exhibit at the Dennos Museum Center, opens today and will run through June 2.

It includes the work of 17 Japanese artists who, since the 1950s, have experimented with the resilient plant often used to make ancient objects for Buddhist rituals, tea ceremonies and ikebana, a Japanese flower arranging art.

“The thing that is most important about this exhibit is to see the skill of what the artists do, turning large strips of bamboo into these incredibly delicate pieces,” said Gene Jenneman, Dennos executive director. “It’s a very handsome exhibit.”

Although bamboo is a prolific natural resource, it is a challenging artistic medium. There are fewer than 100 professional bamboo artists in Japan today. Mastering the art form requires decades of exacting practice while learning how to harvest, split, and plait the bamboo.

One of the pieces in the exhibit is part of the Dennos collection, donated in 2003 by artist Ueno Masao when the museum put together a large exhibit of Japanese kimonos, prints, basketry, contemporary works and other art, Jenneman said..

An added Dennos twist to the traveling exhibit is three performances today in Milliken Auditorium by Japanese storyteller Kuniko Yamamoto. About 700 to 800 students from schools scattered across northwest Lower Michigan are scheduled to attend morning performances. The third one starts at 8 p.m. following an opening reception for museum members, guests and ticket holders.

A native of Japan, Yamamoto uses traditional Japanese music, handcrafted masks, origami, mime, stylized movement and some magic to tell both ancient and modern myths and fables, spiced with social revelations to educate and amuse.

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