Cincinnati Centenarian: Artist Anne Wainscott
Living life to the fullest is a mantra that many ascribe to, with varying degrees of conviction. Wrapped in faux fur and sporting on-trend aviators, a charm bracelet full of mementos lovingly curated by her close friend Michelle, and a smile framed by vibrant red lipstick, Anne Wainscott is someone who epitomizes this. At 100 years young, she has lived a storied life. Born to immigrants, a seamstress mother and a father who was a tailor, she grew up in Cincinnati and early on had a strong interest in fashion. She dreamed of moving to New York to pursue this, but remained in Cincinnati. She funneled this passion into a long career of making illustrations for the Cincinnati department store Shillito's. Elegant women with striking eyes were her trademark, and they almost always bloomed from her imagination. She rarely used models. Being witness to the latest women's trends, she infused this into her innate sense of style and altered or created many of her own clothes. At a time when photographs had not yet replaced paintings and illustrations in advertising, Anne's artistic visions undoubtedly drew customers to Shillito's, who hoped to be as chic as the women in the newspaper ads.
I spent an afternoon with Anne and Michelle in the Riverside Historic District of Covington, KY. I observed this tiny, lovely woman gazing across the Ohio River at the Queen City, where she made a career for herself while married to a fellow artist and raised a family (two sons who also happen to be artists). Her home is decorated with many of her original paintings, drawings, and other artwork. She painted her entire Frigidaire pink. Fresh flowers adorn every table.
Over the course of a century, Anne has seen an unbelievable amount of change. She and her husband contributed their artistic skills to WWII pamphlets distributed to African-American soldiers. She remarked that her husband made the bold decision to depict the soldiers and their families true to life, not Caucasian, as was the standard. She knows in her heart that relatives who did not make it to America perished in the Holocaust.
Born in the U.S. before women could vote, she cast her vote for a woman presidential candidate for the first time this past fall. I met Anne and Michelle at the Women's March in January. Exuding 100 years of wisdom (but looking much younger than her age), Anne captivated me, and that's what inspired me to capture her in these portraits, which of course do not do justice for her beauty and her strong yet gentle spirit.