Her “very bad attitude”…
Renovating a 1783 house…
And, her non-commercial collages just for the pure joy of it
I woke up on Monday morning thinking about Anne Taintor. She is the inventor-queen of sassy captioned retro art sold worldwide. So, while I continue to work on my taxes, here’s a re-run of my 2011 interview with this fascinating person … and, I’ve included the story where she shared some of her personal collages done just for the joy of making art.
Q. Anne, how long have you been using the 30s/40s/50s art – and with your new “twist” line, why did you decide to move into the 60s?
I’ve been using mid-century art and pairing it with irreverent captions for twenty-six years. I’ve been working in collage since I was in college, and I am constantly on the lookout for new paper to cut and paste. When I found a stack of old Ladies’ Home Journals at a yard sale in 1985 I knew I’d discovered something quite wonderful.
Fans have asked me over the years to expand my line with a more updated look. It had been a stumbling block for me that a lot of advertising art from the 60s was not in the public domain, which is what I’d been relying on for my “classic” line. I found the collection of images I use in taintor… with a twist at a licensing show, and they opened up a whole new look to me.
What attracted me to the women in my original line was their ingenuousness, their very lack of sophistication. I simply could not resist putting my subversive captions into their compliant mouths!
The women in my twist collection are a heck of a lot more sophisticated, from the clothes they wear to the attitudes they strike and the places they spend their time. They lounge on couches in violet linen suits; they drape themselves across chairs in pumpkin-colored knits. They are not spending time in the kitchen, nor do any of them even know what an apron is! Their very sophistication makes it a bit more challenging to write for them. Also, these women (and men) were created by Madison Avenue advertising artists “on loan” to Saturday Evening Post to illustrate fiction. For that very reason, there’s already a lot of “back story” in the images. I have to sit with them for a long time and just ask myself “what is going on here???” It turns out these twist women are a lot more cynical than I ever dreamed they would be.
I have a very bad attitude. Very bad. I have a tendency to overreact to perceived slights to my gender, and somehow I seem to have turned a personality defect into a career.
I also have been blessed in recent years with a team of terrific writers, most of whom I’ve never even met… though I love them like sisters (and a few brothers).
I grew up in Maine in a fairly conventional middle-class family. My Dad was an attorney, and my Mom, though a Yale-educated attorney herself, never practiced law. Instead she did the 50s housewife thing that was expected of her, and she did it to perfection. And I went to Catholic school. So the only women I knew were housewives and nuns, and I was pretty terrified of growing up and having to become one or the other.
Eventually, though, I hit on the “plan” of becoming an artist. When at age 32 I suddenly found myself a single mother with no child support, I realized I needed a Plan B. I went to a career counselor. She asked me what I could do. I said “make collages.” Et voila!
I have been extremely fortunate in that the economy has not really been hard on my business. I might have seen more growth if the economy had been better, but all my products are very affordable, and they make people laugh; that turns out to be a winning combination in tough times.
Q. I understand you are a new owner of your own “retro” house – retro as in 1783, crikey! Can you tell us more about the house, why you bought it, and your project list?
I never thought I’d move back to Maine in a million years, but granddaughters can have a curious effect on you. And when I did decide to move back I certainly was not looking for an 18th century house. I told one friend that I liked old houses… but not this old. She said “Anne, your house isn’t old… it’s antique.” In 1783 they had apparently not yet invented closets… or light fixtures. But our house has the most glorious yard, long and narrow and ending in a river with geese and ducks and herons and dozens of other birds. The river is a bit mucky on the bottom, but, as I discovered when it was a hundred degrees and 100% humidity for three days, it’s lovely to swim in. We can put our kayaks in the river from the back yard! Plus the house has a large room that’s the perfect size for my studio and a little bonus room which I like to call my “playroom,” where I can spread out and make collages that have nothing to do with magnets and flasks and coin purses.
My old house project list is limited only by my budget! This fall we are fixing the gutters and downspouts, insulating the attic, replacing the boiler, and bringing heat to my office, studio, and bedroom (there is currently no heat on the second floor). A few other little projects as well, but those are the high points. Nothing as exciting as installing an authentic 1783 kitchen… though I’m not sure I’d want one of those anyway.
Anne Taintor’s collages for art’s sake:
Taintor also still heads to her “playroom” to make art just for herself — where, she says, “I can spread out and make collages that have nothing to do with magnets and flasks and coin purses.” As part of my series, she shared five with us. Above: “They Were Determined to have Fun.”
Thank you, Anne! It’s so much fun to get to know you better. And, I’m honored that you would share these with us. xoxo