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Daily Pilot

From fashion model to artist, with several careers in between,
Newport Beach sculptor has lived life to the fullest.
Like a surreal painting, Essie Pinsker’s life has a meaning all its own. With more than 70 years and nine-odd careers behind her, the Newport Beach sculptor has found comfort and meaning in art.

She has been a fashion model, a journalist, a clothing buyer, an advertising executive, a publicist, a fashion consultant and a teacher. But it was art that bestowed her the ultimate challenge.

Pinsker at Las Vegas Museum

And after 40 years as a sculptor, Pinsker will be featured in a Lifetime Retrospective exhibit at the Las Vegas Art Museum Nov. 16 through Jan. 10.

The strong, spirited woman, a native New Yorker who finds Orange County a “splendid” place to live, is proof that with determination anything is possible.

With the support of what she calls a “liberated husand,” Pinsker broke the social mold in the 1940s when she chose to return to work after the birth of her daughter. She said she had a “restless desire to try many things,” which led her to a long list of careers, hobbies and travels.

“I was scared but I tried,” she said. After college she became a fashion model but left that career because she “didn’t like being a hunk of flesh modelling in clothes.”

She landed a job as a clothing buyer for a department store and then, through a string of luck, good timing and a strong work ethic, she was led in many directions, from writing for a magazine to opening up her own advertising company.

She learned how to paint in the 1950s, working out of her cousin’s studio in Manhattan, then traveled to Italy to learn how to sculpt in marble.

With the character and wisdom of a determined yet gentle independent woman, Pinsker explained that her artwork reflects an entire lifetime of growing and learning.

Her Life in Art

“My life in art is about an endless search for meaning,” she said. She has created several styles that express that search, from cold, sharp-edged steel giants to her “metamorphosis” collection.


Her abstract/figurative bronze and marble pieces take on subjects of relationships and emotions, and the “Gordian Knot” collection represents the struggles of life.

The sculptures, from 6 inches to 6 feet, start out as a hunk of stone or metal and with Pinsker’s hands are transformed into works of art. But it didn’t always come easily. “I started with two left hands,” she said. Her work has been acquired by dozens of organizations, cities and museums, including the Orange County Museum of Art in Newport Beach.

Pinsker created the Humanitarian Award (“Mother and Child”), which was given by the “Anne Frank in the World” Committee to Hollywood Director Stephen Spielberg and his two co-producers, Branko Lustig and Jerry Molen, at the opening event of a special exhibition in Newport Beach in 1995 in which the Anne Frank exhibit was shown, for their academy-award-winning film, “Schindler’s List.” Subsequently, the “Mother and Child“ award was also given to Hillary Rodham Clinton for her book, “It Takes a Village.”

From New York to Orange County

The move from New York to Orange County was a strange but favorable transition, she said. “Orange County’s been very fruitful for me. It’s been the right place and the right time. It also nourishes my spiritual side.”

“Out here you can be more open about how you feel,” she said. “There are more kindred souls here in search of the truth and meaning and that’s rewarding.” She admits there were hard times in her life, especially the death of her husband in 1990; but that didn’t stop her. “You don’t grow by living on fluffy clouds,” she said.

Pinsker’s first sculpture, “Little Girl Lost,” sits atop a side table in the living room of her two-bedroom Newport Beach apartment. “That was me,” she said, caressing the solid statue.

                                                    Nancy Cheever

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