Set your calendar for Saturday. That is when the Lorton Workhouse will hold a “Japanese Art and Culture Day.” It will be a unique, festival-like day of appealing, free events. All are part of the 100th anniversary of the planting of ornamental flowering cherry trees along the Washington, D.C., Tidal Basin.
The event is another in the transformation of the Workhouse at Lorton into an active, engaging arts center, according to John Mason, president and CEO of the Lorton Arts Foundation.
Mason noted that the Workhouse is making the Cherry Blossom Festival 100th anniversary into something of its very own, with a full range of distinctive activities. The Fairfax venue will host workshops, demonstrations, and performances featuring a wide array of Japanese art, culture, food and music, and even anime cinema.
Asked why the Workhouse had organized the event, Mason indicated that it will “bring a deeper understanding of Japanese” customs, art and culture to the area’s residents. And Fairfax County is well-suited for such a singular event, given its multi-cultural nature.
Highlights of the festive events scheduled are best told through some of those making presentations.
To shed some light on “what a bonsai is — how bonsai are developed and cared for,” there will be a presentation by Joseph Gutierrez, of the Potomac Bonsai Association. Visitors will have a close-up look “to learn a bit about how to judge a bonsai — to increase their appreciation of bonsai.” He will focus “on azaleas as bonsai, since azaleas do very well in this area, are readily available.”
Bonsai can help us “better learn how to appreciate plants and trees ... and how to do the proper things to a tree at the proper time,” Gutierrez said. “Bonsai are living things, they constantly undergo change because they continue to grow; and learning what happens to a tree during the various seasons helps one enjoy and appreciate bonsai more.”
Asked about the pots used for Bonsai, Guiterrez indicated that the pots must suit the tree and the style of the tree. “Some pots are considered to be quite “masculine,” as are the trees that are planted into them ... e.g., heavy trunks; other trees are quite “feminine,” as some are very slender and graceful or flowering trees ... and these are often planted into glazed or ornamented pots.”
The art of Ikebana will be discussed by Elizabeth Berry of Ikebana International. She will “demonstrate a diversity of Ikebana styles — to give people an idea of the range that is possible.” She also wants “to demonstrate a few styles that people could learn easily and re-create on their own.”
What exactly is Ikebana? According to Berry, it is “the composition is a union between the container and the floral materials.” In developing an Ikebana display, she “will look at containers to see what would complement them the best ... if I have a certain container in mind, I would search out materials I think would work best with that container.”
“I like to use flowers of the season. This is traditional. At this time of year I’m drawn to cherry and apple blossoms, dogwood, quince and willows. These materials bring the joy of spring into the composition. In the fall, I like to feature nandina (bamboo), maple and various grasses.”
Keith Tomlinson, park manager of Meadowlark Gardens in Vienna, Va., indicated that his “presentation will look at the horticultural and botanical history of the [cherry] trees and their 100-year role as the grandest ornamental tree of the Washington, D.C., region.” Tomlinson said it is critical to “understand the connection between people and nature across cultures.”
Flowering cherry trees after their springtime beauty fades continue to have interest. For Tomlinson, “the fruits are eaten by many birds and the fall color is a pleasant reddish-brown. ... these trees rarely grow outside of cultivation.” With gnarled trunks the “crown architecture is very pretty in winter.”
Dr. Rosemary Smith, of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, intends to speak about Japanese visual art and its aesthetic principles, especially during the Edo period. It was the time of the Shoguns, Samurai and Kabuki. This period ended not long after the arrival of Naval Commander Matthew Perry into Tokyo Bay.
Many associate Japanese wood-cut artwork and prints of the period with their intricate depictions of nature and of actors in what appears to be exaggerated poses. Smith plans to explain the meanings behind things, and what “the artists were trying to achieve.” She also expects to speak about the influences of Japanese art on Western art styles.
The Workhouse’s own artists will be well-represented during the event, including Gretchen Klimoski, a fiber artist. Visitors can meet the artists and enjoy the collective exhibitions in each of the Workhouse buildings on the campus. There will even be a special tea tasting. For children, there will be activities such as a chopstick challenge and a PG-rated anime, “5 Centimeters per Second,” from director and writer Makoto Shinkai.