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Clearwater artist creates sculptures that reflect her peaceful ideals

Published Apr. 27, 2012

CLEARWATER — Nina Winters is focused.

In a sunlit home nestled along Clearwater Harbor, she sits in her artist's studio bent over a clay model she calls a "freedom angel." The current figure stands about 2 feet high, but it's destined to be cast in aluminum reaching 15 feet. The angel, with a swirling clay skirt, has a small child tucked under her arm.

"Mothers will understand this piece," Winters said of the statue, which she describes as a symbol of a world free from war. "I'd like to incorporate pieces of old war planes into the final product, as if recycling war into freedom."

Most of her pieces make a similar statement.

"Our problems are less than we are made to believe," she said. "They can be handled."

Winters, a New York City native who moved to Clearwater in the early 1990s, sculpts without the use of a sketch.

"I sketch directly in clay," she said. "I don't know what to do with a 2-D surface."

Her themes of peace and the human ability to achieve it are depicted in two of her early works positioned on each side of her living room fireplace. Both stand about 2 feet high, cast in bronze with a black patina on the bodies and highly burnished bronze faces.

The first she calls Earth Protector. The chunky, modernistic figure, which features large hands and big feet moving forward, carries a small model of the earth under one arm. An orange headpiece streams backward resembling the wake of a ship. The second, titled Creation, depicts a woman with the same highly polished bronze face and large hands and feet of the nearby sculpture.

Winters' art involves a lengthy process. The clay model of her freedom angel is just the beginning. The next step will take her to Montana to a foundry where the clay, after the making of numerous molds and waxes, will be cast in bronze. From those molds and waxes, future replicas of her initial statue can be made in different sizes.

Several other steps will follow. From Montana, Winters travels to Portland, Ore., to a workshop that will digitally enlarge her sculpture to the size she wants. To finish her freedom angel, she also plans to meet with collectors or military agents from whom she can purchase parts of old war planes.

"I just need one piece of an old plane, perhaps with lettering on it," she said.

Eventually, Winters will select yet another foundry that will cast the mold into aluminum, incorporating the plane part.

The time and money it takes to go from clay to aluminum or bronze is no small matter.

"I can easily put $2,000 into a piece before I even know if anyone wants it," she said.

Each piece consumes vast chunks of time as well.

Working 10 to 12 hours a day, she takes a month to do a piece. Then the travel begins.

"It's intensive work, but I love it," she said.

Winters sells pieces by word of mouth and through galleries and exhibits. Working through an agent, she currently has pieces in galleries in London, Texas and Hawaii. Locally, she has exhibited at the Temple Beth El annual art show and sale in St. Petersburg, and around the state at shows in Jupiter, Miami and Palm Beach.

Statues range in size from 6 inches to 2 1/2 feet and sell from about $900 to $15,000. A piece called Galactic Samurai, representing a confrontation with evil, was recently purchased by a corporate executive in Dallas for his private residence.

The artist radiates enthusiasm at seeing where her initial clay sculpture takes her.

"There is a magical point in which the piece takes on life and becomes its own entity," she said. "It is as if it is telling you what to do with it."

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