Artist Pours Soul Into Sculptures

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Each of Ann Hunter's sculptures carries pieces of her soul.

The self-taught artist came to Pine about two years ago and only started sculpting last year.

She calls her studio-gallery, Soul Search -- which tells the story of her work and the life she is now living.

"I come from the Midwest," she said. "I was in advertising and decided I needed a life change."

Hunter moved to the Phoenix area and in July 1997 she was in a very serious car crash. She could not walk or talk, and while she was not able to "wake up," she still heard everything that was going on around her.

When the medical professionals had done all they could do for her, they talked about putting her in a nursing home to live out her life.

"I was so scared. I didn't want to be in a home," she said.

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The sculpture, "Praise," is one of Ann Hunter's "Nu Art" pieces. She said the work is part of a sequence, but can also stand on its own.

Slowly, she learned to walk and talk again and along the way she felt the need to begin sculpting. It took her three years to come back from her injuries, but it cost her everything because she could no longer work.

"Then the (sculptures) just started coming out," she said.

She said she visualizes the images before she begins a piece, and then starts working directly with the clay.

Hunter doesn't make sketches and her only tools are her hands and a pocket knife, along with the paints and polishes with which she finishes her work.

She said the pieces are both sequential and stand-alone. The sculptures are intimate, the largest of the 60 or so she has made in the last year is perhaps a foot tall and about half as wide.

Hunter's work is almost all clay, though she sometimes incorporates found objects, such as feathers. One of the more unique qualities of her work is the elements that resemble other natural materials, like shells, that are also clay.

"I go around gathering (the found objects). You can find what you need if you are open to it," she said.

After she began sculpting she discovered that her work is something called "Nu Art."

"It's 6,000 years old, but only every once in awhile it appears on earth. And here it is. Somehow I just tapped into it. I feel I've been called to do this work," Hunter said.

"All my pieces take me on a journey and help me learn more about myself," she said. "They teach me and I hope it will do the same for others about who we are and why we're here."

Hunter's Soul Search studio-gallery sits in the low hills of Pine, off a gravel road. Highway 87 is barely a mile away, but the sunny patio where she displayed her work seemed to be enveloped in the still of the forest.

She does not participate in area shows, though she has had work in out-of-state galleries. She also displays at The Book Store & More, 1001 S. Beeline Highway, Payson.

Hunter will also do commissioned work, though she has not yet entered that field.

To find out more, call Soul Search studio-gallery, (928) 476-4557.

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