Carol Wainio was born in Sarnia, Ontario in 1955. After studies at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and the University of Toronto, she earned an M.F.A. from Concordia University in 1985. She taught in the Visual Arts Department at the University of Ottawa from 1987 to 1989 and was an assistant professor in the Department of Visual Arts at Concordia from 1989 to 1998. She lives and works in Ottawa, where she is an adjunct professor at the University of Ottawa.
Her exhibition The Book, curated by Diana Nemiroff for Carleton University Art Gallery, contains works from 2002-2010. A comprehensive hardcover catalogue is available. An exhibition of new work, Old Masters, also appeared at the Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery, March 8 - April 28, 2013. Wainio's work was exhibited at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts as part of the group exhibition Her Story Today, October 8, 2015, to August 7, 2016. In 2018 she was included in the inaugural group exhibition We'll All Become Stories at the new Ottawa Art Gallery. In 2019 she was named the Artist-In-Residence at the Diefenbunker, Ottawa, which led to the exhibition Disasters for Little Children. Wainio's work can also be found in the current group exhibition, Painting Nature with a Mirror, at the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal to June 15, 2020.
Carol Wainio is a recipient of the Governor General's Award in Visual and Media Arts (2014).