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Organic materials flow into sculpted forms in CaliforniaAesthic3D at Studios on the Park 

click to enlarge LAMINATED BALTIC BIRCH An ode to Dairy Queen, Ken Wilbanks' All The Flavors was sculpted from plywood that was glued together.

Photo Courtesy Of Ken And Stephanie Wilbanks

LAMINATED BALTIC BIRCH An ode to Dairy Queen, Ken Wilbanks' All The Flavors was sculpted from plywood that was glued together.

It's difficult to explain exactly what California's aesthetic is, but Paso Robles sculptor Ken Wilbanks said you'll know it when you see it.

"I just seems like there's an artistic freedom here that isn't really as restricted as some schools in some places," Ken said. "It's wide open. It's not one look."

He explained that contemporary sculpture on the East Coast deals with a lot of hard lines, while art on the West Coast is a little more free form, a little softer, a little rounder. Rather than using material such as marble, many California sculptors instead rely on wood, glass, and steel or found objects.

"Even though some of the pieces are quite linear, there seems to be something a lot more earth-centered about them," Ken said. "We like to say California has a big heart."

The "we" in that statement includes his wife, Stephanie Wilbanks. Together, Ken and Stephanie present a 3D show at Studios on the Park through May 3. The couple invited several Central Coast sculptors to exhibit their work in CaliforniaAesthetic3D, including work from Mecki Heussen, George Jercich, Larry Le Brane, Ron Roundy, Carl Berney, Peter Charles, and Ken.

click to enlarge SCREWS, NUTS, COPPER, CEMENT Mecki Heussen's Copper Maiden is part of the CaliforniaAesthetic3D exhibit at Studios on the Park through May. - PHOTO COURTESY OF KEN AND STEPHANIE WILBANKS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Ken And Stephanie Wilbanks
  • SCREWS, NUTS, COPPER, CEMENT Mecki Heussen's Copper Maiden is part of the CaliforniaAesthetic3D exhibit at Studios on the Park through May.

"We already knew the work of these sculptors," Stephanie said. "We didn't even have to ask them. We already knew what they were going to bring."

The sculptures on display are as varied as the media, from Heussen's Copper Maiden—a female bodice created with steel screws, nuts, copper, and cement—to Jercich's Mouse Trap—a mouse trap crafted from metal and wood squishing a blown glass orb—and Ken's All The Flavors—suspended soft serve ice cream sculpted from laminated birch plywood. Stephanie said that they were thinking about the classic philosophy of aesthetics in art when pulling the show together.

"That the artist creates something of beauty and artistic value from their personal aesthetic. But the viewer sees it from their own lens of experience," she said, "then judges its beauty, taste, and artistic value from their specific perspective."

For instance, I was drawn to Heussen's sculptures, which are intricately detailed, bold pieces. The Cambria resident has an extensive list of credits to his name on IMDb for his special effects work, including The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Friday the 13th Part VII: the New Blood.

Steel, carved plaster, acrylic, copper, and cement, Heussen's pieces are evocative. Spread Love, Not Violence depicts a heart-shaped grenade in shades of green and red.

"He finds a lot of metal objects on the beach and he puts them together," Ken said. "When you walk up to it, it's amazing the detail, and he welds each of those with a MIG welding process."

Ken said he was particularly drawn to Jercich's Mouse Trap because he marvels at how the artist was able to depict a squished globe of glass in a mouse trap.

"It causes this visual tension," he said. "The first time I ever saw it, it knocked me out."

click to enlarge GLASS, METAL, WOOD George Jercich's aptly named Mouse Trap is a piece that Paso Robles-based sculptor Ken Wilbanks said makes him marvel in wonder. - PHOTO COURTESY OF KEN AND STEPHANIE WILBANKS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Ken And Stephanie Wilbanks
  • GLASS, METAL, WOOD George Jercich's aptly named Mouse Trap is a piece that Paso Robles-based sculptor Ken Wilbanks said makes him marvel in wonder.
click to enlarge FUSED GLASS, TEACUPS, FOUND OBJECTS Goldilocks and other pieces by Larry Le Brane are on display at Studios on the Park with art from a handful of other Central Coast sculptors in CaliforniaAesthetic3D. - PHOTO COURTESY OF KEN AND STEPHANIE WILBANKS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Ken And Stephanie Wilbanks
  • FUSED GLASS, TEACUPS, FOUND OBJECTS Goldilocks and other pieces by Larry Le Brane are on display at Studios on the Park with art from a handful of other Central Coast sculptors in CaliforniaAesthetic3D.

Part of what makes art in California so unique, he said, is the way the state's geography is. It's diverse, beautiful, and inspirational. Plus, he added, the community on the Central Coast just embraces art, something that's unique from other places the Wilbankses have lived.

They moved to Paso Robles from Arizona about nine years ago to be closer to their children, who both went to school in the Bay Area. Ken sculpts with birchwood plywood, Stephanie with glass, and both got the chance to focus on their art full time once they moved to the area, almost immediately linking up with Studios on the Park to get involved in the community.

Stephanie said they've always felt welcome and appreciate Studios' desire to showcase a variety of shows and artists.

Although it's been somewhat hard to connect with that community of artists during the pandemic, Stephanie said it's given everyone a chance to focus on their work. And, art sales have gone up as well.

"They're things that people fall in love with and want in their home, and I think that's a cool sideline to the pandemic," she said. "Unexpected things have happened." Δ

Editor Camillia Lanham wants to take a heart home. Send artsy happenings to clanham@newtimesslo.com.

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