Like most Americans, Ann Bregman Rascoe was horrified to watch the World Trade Center’s towers fall on Sept. 11, 2001.
Unlike many, though, Rascoe channeled those feelings into her art.
“I was extremely moved,” Rascoe told the Chronicle. “As soon as I could paint, it went from my brain to my heart, down my arm to the paper. There was no hesitation.”
The resulting works, a triptych of sorts, are impressionist interpretations of the towers crumbling, the steel from their girders interlocked like a torn web. The National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum reached out to Rascoe and added the original works to its collection earlier this year.
This wasn’t a role Rascoe imagined for herself as a young woman.
A Westchester County, New York native, she attended Hunter College and pursued a career in education, in part because interacting with children came so naturally. After living in Syracuse, New York, she and her husband moved to Pittsburgh in 1963, settling in Mt. Lebanon. Eventually, she got a master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh in reading and language arts and served her hometown school district as a special education program director.
Though she now lives in Florida, Rascoe remains a member of Temple Emanuel of the South Hills and plans to be buried in Pittsburgh.
The art, of course, was always there.
“I remember, when I was a young child, I pored over illustrations — and I drew,” Rascoe said. “I love to be with kids. And I wanted the structure of a teaching position, not the struggle of trying to sell art.”
In her 60s, she retired. And then something unexpected happened.
“I began a second career at 62 years old,” Rascoe said. “And now, I’ve sold over 150 paintings and I’ve had nine shows.”
Rascoe has shown work in several spaces. But she still remembers the first painting she sold, a 16-inch-by-20-inch watercolor of the Pebble Beach golf course, an admired U.S. Open stop in California.
“It was a big surprise — I had no idea what would happen,” she laughed. “I don’t need to sell. I only want to paint because I want to paint … and I don’t have to worry if someone else likes it.”
Rascoe, though, was especially touched when the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum came calling after it saw photos of the three paintings years earlier.
“This is a dream come true, that the museum wanted it,” Rascoe said.
Rascoe is serious about her art. Before moving to Florida year-round about a decade ago, she would rise in the morning and immediately go to her studio space and express herself. She was a prodigious painter, completing many works she’d share with family and friends.
The Sept. 11-themed works were no different.
“They just came,” she told the Chronicle. “They just flowed right out of me — I didn’t have to think or ponder whether they were right or wrong.”
Today, she doesn’t paint as much, instead opting for illustrations in notebooks and leading art programs at the senior living facility in St. Petersburg, Florida, she calls home. Rascoe turns 91 in a month and uses a walker; a 2017 heart attack also forced her to slow down a bit.
But the painter of three striking works about the Sept. 11 attacks still shines through.
“I’m happy,” she said, “with what I have.” PJC
Justin Vellucci is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh.