Michael Jordan once shared “My father used to say that it’s never too late to do anything you wanted to do. And he said, ‘You never know what you can accomplish until you try.” The late Annie Lee is the true embodiment of those exact words. The respected painters did not have her first art show until the age of 50. At that showing, she allowed prints to be made from her original works. Those prints were sold out in a matter of four hours. That was only the beginning for Annie Lee’s illustrious career.
When several of Annie Lee’s works were seen on the set of The Cosby Show and A Different World, her popularity grew exponentially. She was known for her painting devoid of facial expressions yet full of animated personalities. Annie Lee prefers to bring her paintings to life through the movement and body language of the characters. Annie Lee did not want faces to interfere with the story she was painting through the body language of her characters. By painting without faces, Annie Lee allows her customers to project themselves or people that they know into the painting
Her most popular painting is Blue Monday, a work inspired by her years working as the chief clerk at Northwestern Railroad. Blue Monday depicts a black woman struggling to force her way out of bed in the morning. My Cup Runneth Over is also a very popular piece in her collection. This piece depicts a black woman at her wits end sitting on a floor pillow with a bible in her hand. The strength yet helplessness of this woman’s posture and stature is the signature of Annie Lee’s aesthetic. To celebrate America’s first black family to occupy the White house, Annie Lee created a portrait of the first family titled Oval Office. The iconic painting shows President Obama, Michelle and their daughters sharing a family moment in the Oval Office.
Born in rural Alabama in the 1930s and raised in Chicago, Annie Lee developed a work ethic that would catapult her career later in life. She was known to be a savvy business woman, using her designs to develop figurines, high fashion dolls, decorative housewares, and kitchen tiles. Her tenacity and fortitude propelled her to be an internationally respected artist whose original works sell north of $20,000. While her original pieces may go for top dollar, Annie Lee wanted to ensure that everyone could experience her work. Even on a budget, you could own a piece of Annie Lee’s collection through the figurines and housewares.
Annie Lee passed away November 24, 2014 in her Henderson, NV home. Her legacy and her Annie Lee & Friends Gallery stand as a testament to the impact she had not only on black culture but on the art world as a whole. She worked to create art that every race, gender and socio-economic status could see a reflection of themselves in. Annie Lee once said “You’re going to be working all of your life, so just do what makes you happy! And, if you are able to make others happy while doing what makes you happy, what more could you ask?” Her work can be purchased online at AnnieLeeGifts.com.