In Benign Neglect: Historic Japanese American Bonsai, artist and photographer Takeshi Moro documents sixty bonsai grown by seed by the Issei (first-generation Japanese Americans) post-WWII. These bonsai were left in the care of renowned aesthetic pruner Dennis Makishima, who described the collection as being one of "benign neglect" as the Issei became too busy rebuilding their lives after the war, and gave minimal attention to the bonsai. Over time, the bonsai started to form odd visual features, and their aesthetic characteristics are not typical of, or even desired by, traditional or contemporary Japanese bonsai practices. Kenny Murakami, former owner of Moraga Garden Center, writes in the foreword, "The story of these pines is a story of a journey, not a journey of distance, but a journey of time . . . They represent a period of transition for Japanese Americans, from a time of great personal and institutional racism, to a time of greater yet not quite full acceptance by American society." Takeshi Moro's photographs in Benign Neglect are the last time the bonsai are represented together, as Dennis donated his entire collection upon his retirement in 2021.
Takeshi Moro was born in Japan, raised in the U.K. and currently works in the San Francisco Bay Area. Moro studied photography at Rhode Island School of Design and holds a B.A. in Visual Arts from Brown University. He completed his M.F.A. graduate studies at School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Moro’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally including solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and Serlachius Museot, Finland. His work resides in the permanent collection at Museum of Contemporary Photography, as well as in various private collections.
June 2023, English, 9 x 12 in, 72 pages, softcover, full color, spiral bound with metal rod, rope, and pin