Local artist creates and installs sculpture in honor of mission’s recent donors

JOLON — In October, local artist Max Randolph of Max Randolph Studios installed a custom 12-foot-tall sculpture of a great oak tree in the historic courtyard of Mission San Antonio de Padua. The mission, located in the town of Jolon near Fort Hunter Liggett, commissioned Randolph to build the sculpture in honor of the many donors who donated to support the mission’s recent retrofit. 

Max 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,” Randolph said. “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 its donors and history. He began the construction of the Iron Oak sculpture in December 2022 and completed it in this month. 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,” Randolph said. “This Iron Oak was a welcome challenge.”

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
  • 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. 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.’”

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.

You can view the Iron Oak sculpture and meet Randolph, at the mission’s upcoming wine-tasting event — An Afternoon in the Garden — Saturday, Nov. 4, from 3 to 6 p.m. Tickets are available at (831) 385-4478, ext. 17. Participation in this event will be limited — reserve your tickets today at a discounted rate of $45/person. This is an adult event — no children, please. Tickets at the door will be $60/person.

About Mission San Antonio

Mission San Antonio de Padua was established third in the founding order of the 21 Alta California missions, on July 14, 1771. Today, the mission sits serenely against the foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountain Range, appearing much as it did upon its inception.

About Max Randolph Studios

Max Randolph Studios is an art studio located in Paso Robles run by Max Randolph, a blacksmith artist who designs and builds metal sculptures and moving architectural pieces. Driven by a passion for both fine art and craft work, Randolph has pushed the boundaries of metal with an insatiable curiosity and imagination for the last 20 years.

Feature Image: Blacksmith artist Max Randolph of Paso Robles looks up at the oak tree sculpture he created to put in the courtyard of Mission San Antonio de Padua in Jolon. Photo by Casey Page Photography