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Local artist uses historic artifacts to create public art at Aliso Viejo Ranch

Artist Jon Seeman's sculpture, "Onward" is on display at Aliso Viejo Ranch.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Local artist Jon Seeman spent his younger days exploring the hills of what is now Aliso Viejo.

“I hiked all these canyons when it was a ranch,” said Seeman. “I would explore. From Top of the World I would take my bike down and explore all these canyons.”

Seeman, a sculptor known for public artwork throughout Southern California and beyond, has been a resident of Aliso Viejo since it was incorporated 21 years ago. His connection to the area is part of why he felt compelled to donate to the city’s legacy.

“He has been part of Aliso Viejo and the surrounding area his whole life and wanted to give back to the community and do something at the ranch,” said Aliso Viejo City Manager Dave Doyle.

The Aliso Viejo Ranch is a historic former property of the Moulton family, restored by the city of Aliso Viejo and the site of Seeman’s 43rd public sculpture, “Onward.”

The abstract steel artwork is the only donated piece in Seeman’s 45-year career.

“Onward” stands 7 feet tall and 7 feet across and has been installed at the entrance of Aliso Viejo Ranch, near the property’s Red Barn.

Seeman worked with the city’s historical consultant to select items found onsite at the ranch to create “Onward.”

“Public art and accessible public art is incredibly important for our city to thrive and move forward,” said Aliso Viejo Mayor Ross Chun. “Now we have public art created by a longtime resident, out of implements and artifacts that have been here far longer than any of us have been here.”

Artist Jon Seeman, right, speaks to Aliso Viejo Mayor Ross Chun at Aliso Viejo Ranch.
Artist Jon Seeman, right, speaks to Aliso Viejo Mayor Ross Chun about his new sculpture, “Onward,” at Aliso Viejo Ranch on Wednesday, July 6.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

The sculpture utilizes farming implements like horseshoes and parts of harvesting tools, with 12 ranch artifacts incorporated into the design.

“Of course there’s horseshoes, there is a pick, there is a blacksmith’s vise,” Seeman said. “Part of a ranch gate, and there is some wheels from small tractors.”

The work also includes an artifact Seeman found in the hills during his own exploration of the area years before.

“There is the gate hinge, which is original to the property, but Jon actually found that when he was younger in the hills here,” said Doyle.

Seeman worked on the piece at his Laguna Beach studio and donated his time and the steel support materials for the piece. He said he typically starts with sketches and mechanical drawings, and the vision grows from there.

“When you start working with it and start seeing it in 3D,” Seeman said, “then it evolves into a higher level of art, more creative and more dynamic.”

His pieces are known for evoking a sense of movement, and “Onward” is no exception, with a design that appears as though it could be driven away.

Jon Seeman, left, and City Manager Dave Doyle stand beside Seeman's "Onward" sculpture.
Jon Seeman, left, and City Manager Dave Doyle stand beside Seeman’s “Onward” sculpture at Aliso Viejo Ranch on Wednesday, July 6.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“I wanted to have something that kids, as well as adults could relate to,” said Seeman. “It’s something that moves. It kind of makes kids think out of the box, and that’s what art is. That’s my main goal when I do art.”

Chun said the sculpture is part of Aliso Viejo Ranch’s growing development that includes Moulton Museum, original buildings and farming equipment. The multiuse site sits on the last remaining parcel of the former 22,000-acre Moulton Ranch and includes a sustainable aquaponics farm where produce is harvested regularly and donated to local nonprofit partners.

“This is just another part of the evaluation of the ranch. The ranch is always going to be growing and it is going to be expanding in different ways,” said Chun. “The idea that now we have been able to put historic art in here, that brings a whole new aspect to this environment, and it’s added so much to every visitors experience here.”

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