JOLON — Local artist Max Randolph recently installed a custom 12-foot-tall sculpture of a great oak tree in the historic courtyard of Mission San Antonio de Padua.
The Mission commissioned Randolph, who runs the art studio Max Randolph Studios in Paso Robles, to build the sculpture in honor of the many donors who donated to support its recent retrofit. Randolph was raised among Paso Robles’ iconic oak trees and, like many locals, is fond of their majestic presence throughout the county.
“When the Mission asked for an oak tree sculpture, I felt honored to be part of my local history,” said Randolph, a blacksmith artist who designs and builds metal sculptures and moving architectural pieces. “Oak trees and their organic wild shapes have lived in my imagination ever since I can remember.”
Randolph worked closely with the Mission to design a sculpture that would commemorate the donors and the history of the Mission. He began the construction of the Iron Oak sculpture in December 2022 and completed it in October 2023.
The sculpture is made from thousands of pounds of hand-forged iron, adorned with a canopy of copper leaves each formed by hand.
“Working with sculptures of this size is truly a labor of love. This Iron Oak was a welcome challenge,” Randolph said.
The copper leaves are hand-stamped with individual donor names. Donors who supported the Mission’s retrofit in the amount of $5,000 or more have a designated leaf on the tree with their name.
The sculpture not only honors significant financial donors, but also the three divisions of the Salinan Tribe, inscribed on the three tree branches of the tree: The Salinan Tribe of Monterey and San Luis Obispo Counties; The Salinan T’rowt’raahl Community; and Xolon Salinan Tribe.
Located on 86 pristine acres, Mission San Antonio de Padua sits within the “Valley of the Oaks” on California’s scenic Central Coast near Jolon in South Monterey County.
The Iron Oak now resides within the historic walls of the central courtyard garden, among the native plants, historically used by the Salinan Tribal Members, and the parish roses. Water falling from the central fountain, complete with fish swimming in the cold water, completes the peaceful ambiance.
“The completion of this sculpture is the crowning achievement of a seven-year, multimillion-dollar project to seismically strengthen and restore this historic jewel for another century of visitors and guests,” said Joan Steele, administrator of the Mission. “Max has, from ‘Day One,’ intrinsically understood and captured the essence of this momentous undertaking. He has highlighted the people with whom the Mission began, the Salinans, and has paid homage to those who gave the substantial financial aid to make this monumental restoration a reality, all the while, authentically representing the importance of the area … the Valley of the Oaks.”
Steele invites the community to “come experience this unique place and this exceptional sculpture for yourself.” The Mission is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sundays, 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
View the Iron Oak sculpture and meet the artist, Max Randolph, at the Mission’s upcoming wine-tasting event, An Afternoon in the Garden, on Saturday, Nov. 4, from 3 to 6 p.m. For tickets to this adults-only event, call 831-385-4478 ext. 17.