Essie Pinsker made a novel decision about 15 years ago: "I don't want to die an efficient business machine," Pinsker recalled telling her husband. "I want to die an artist."
The idea was novel in that the New York native had had nine highly successful careers as "an efficient business machine," most of which had begun with a trip to the Yellow Pages. Among them: fashion model, buyer for a department store, journalist (sportswear editor for Women's Wear Daily, regular contributor to the New York Times), advertising executive and public relations director for Leopold Stokowski's American Symphony Orchestra.
Today, at "70-plus, I'll admit to that," Pinsker is a highly successful Newport Beach sculptor whose works are being featured through Jan. 30 at a lifetime retrospective exhibition at the Las Vegas Art Museum. Nevada's oldest and largest art facility recently moved into stylish new quarters with 30,000 square feet of exhibition space. (For more information, call  360-8000.)
Pinsker's volumetric works in marble and bronze have been acquired for permanent collections of 21 other museums around the world, including the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, Minnesota Museum of Art in St. Paul and the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw.
At the conclusion of the Las Vegas showing, the Orange County Museum of Art in Newport Beach and UCLA Medical Center will acquire Pinsker creations for their collections.
"We've been offered a marble, which we're going to accept," said OCMA chief curator Bruce Guenther, who will choose between two possibilities.
"Ms. Pinsker's work has the essence and the spirit of the times she lives in, it speaks to the time she lives in. . . . It comes out of her own response, emotional and intellectual, to events of the world, translated into a physical form that is compelling, that communicates to other people, and that should be preserved," Guenther said.
Pinsker will be featured next week on KOCE-TV's "Real Orange," and a one-person exhibition will open March 13 at the Ross Watkins Gallery in Palm Desert. She's represented locally at Left Bank Gallery in Laguna Beach.
It was at Left Bank Gallery that Las Vegas Art Museum curator James Mann, who is writing a book on art after Post-Modernism--post-Post-Modernism, if you will--chanced upon Pinsker's work.
"Critics are looking for a return to beauty and form and meaning," Pinsker said. So is Pinsker: According to a profile in the Las Vegas show catalog, she attempts to reconcile the human with the divine in a panorama of metaphors and characters drawn from the Bible, mythology and her own emotional landscapes.
Pinsker has been sculpting for decades. Formal studies at schools including New York University and Columbia University were augmented by summer visits to watch artisans at Carrara, Italy, one of the world's great marble centers, and nearby Pietrasanta.
Only when her home and office began to overflow with her marble creations did her friends suggest she pursue her muse full time.
"I thought they were nuts," Pinsker said. "Understand, I was a really chic fashion lady. I was just trying to understand the material. . . . I didn't think I had talent. I was born with two left hands, and my head and hands were not connected."
She considers sculpture her most challenging career of all.
"Don't ever think this was a pleasure for me, or easy. It's like giving birth. But God was very good to me. He gave me tons of energy. When it came to patience, he said you can go to the little girls' room. But what I can do in one day, other people can't. I'm grateful for that."