Their Sculpture Art Differs in Theme But Shares an Aim to Create Change

Like son, like mother.
Yes, we recognize that is a reversal of the traditional statement about children following in the footsteps of their parents. However, in the case of two Palm Coast area artists, Paul Baliker, the son, and Joan Baliker, the mother, it is accurate in terms of their professional careers.
But that is just a first glance. It isn’t the full story regarding the mother and son.
Palm Coast Magazine talked to both artists and we quickly discovered that while Paul’s internationally-acclaimed career producing sculptures made from driftwood and or bronze started and flourished decades before his mother’s sculptures depicting leaders of world religions promoting peace came into existence, Joan was indeed an artist long before her son was born.
“My mother has always had natural ability as an artist. She has always been an artist,” Paul said, noting his mother encouraged him at a young age to pursue his passion of carving driftwood. “She spent most of her life raising four boys. She was 69 when she started to sculpt seriously, but she always had the talent.”
Now, at age 91, Joan remains an active sculptor and contributor to art in public spaces in the greater Palm Coast area.
She agrees with her son that she always had the talent; that she always was an artist.
As a young woman, Joan attended the Art Institute of Chicago. That training did not immediately lead to an art career.
“I just did not find anything inspiring that I wanted to do until I got into a spiritual quest,” Joan said.
A bit more than 20 years ago, Joan completed, “A Course in Miracles,” published by the Foundation for Inner Peace based in Novato, Calif., in the process of becoming an interfaith minister.
That effort became the basis of her sculpture career.
“My sculpting is my ministry,” Joan said. “All the sculptures that I do are of different faiths. But instead of focusing on the differences, I do my art to show people that we are all one. We are all the same in that we are all seeking peace.”
Joan said she has found peace by listening to and pursuing the direction her “inner voice” guides her to follow. She asks her “inner voice” to show her how to help others in their own journey to finding peace.
“What can I do to help people find inner peace?” is how Joan describes her work when asked what her professional sculpting goals are.
At her son’s self-named gallery, Joan’s room called “The Peace Room” is full of sculptures of leaders of various faiths whose life’s work is closely associated with peace seeking. Visitors will find Australian Aboriginal peoples, Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi, an Incan medicine man, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mother Teresa among other representations of peace seeking.
Joan welcomes visitors to simply soak in the expression of peace.
“It is quite an experience,” she said. “I have seen people just start to cry because they are so overwhelmed. It brings healing.”
While Joan’s artwork highlights spirituality, Paul’s work accents a call to preserve wildlife and raise awareness of the connection between humans and the animals coexisting with them on Earth.
Baliker’s work is dominated by the relationship between humans and animals — both domestic and wild.
In his signature piece, “A Matter of Time,” Baliker makes an artistic plea for humans to consider their individual and collective role in conservation.
The piece features an image of a man holding the Earth in the middle. More than 40 different animals — many endangered — are depicted around the edges at the 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions. The piece, crafted in 2013, is 13 feet in diameter and took Baliker six months to complete.
The piece is a call to action, Baliker said.
“It is an urge for man to heed the call of conservation,” he said in a video on his website describing the piece, “Nature created the movement in the wood, I am just the tool used in expressing the ideas. If someone sees something in this sculpture which stimulates the desire to get involved in preservation and conservation — which is what we all must do to succeed and survive — then I will have accomplished what I intended. As go the animals, so go the people. It is only just a matter of time.”
Paul believes his mother greatly impacted his connection to nature.
“She does people, I do animals,” Paul said. “Her spirituality has certainly made an impact on my own pieces. A lot of people tell me I have a very spiritual connection to nature. I believe it comes from the nurturing by my mother.”
Paul, now age 67, with artwork installed in venues across the United States with one piece each in Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois and Oklahoma, two in Michigan and 12 in Florida with several in Daytona Beach and Ormond Beach venues, started his professional career in art at age 19.
He credits his mother with encouraging him to “make a living” as an artist when others thought he perhaps needed an economic reality check.
“She always believed in me,” Paul said. And he has always believed in her.
At age 69 when she came to her son telling him she was ready to start sculpting, Paul didn’t hesitate to support her.
He pulled out a lump of clay and said, “Okay, Mom, let’s see what you can do with this.”
With only one short course in sculpting to her credit — a course that Joan said she didn’t learn anything from — Joan started working.
She was pleasantly surprised at how natural it felt for her to sculpt.
“It just happened,” Joan explained. Turns out sculpting is her peaceful place.
Visit the Baliker Gallery located at 5922-5928 N. Oceanshore Bouvelard in Palm Coast on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 AM to 5 PM.
— By Amy Armstrong