A simple gift from my grandmother was the inspiration for this body of work. Knowing of my interest in 50s culture, she gave me a Good Housekeeping magazine dated March 1950. I found the pages of this magazine were not so different from a modern woman’s magazine. There were advertisements for various food and cleaning products to make a woman’s life easier; advertisements for dresses, shows and children’s clothes; and articles about hair styles, home decoration and meal planning. But I found the look, style, and tone of the 1950s version to be very different from today’s high-tech, hustle-bustle, mile-a-minute world.
That’s what gets me I guess, the world really does seem simpler on the half a century old pages — a woman “knew her place”. It wasn’t necessary that she have a career outside of the home. That was the man’s job after all — a woman’s career was to be a homemaker and in 1950 there were so many new things to help her be for efficient: laundry soap, cake mixes, instant pudding, Tide, even Tampa for goodness sake! As I looked through the pages of this magazine, I found that I experienced a range of conflicting emotions from envy to gratitude. Envy because being a beautiful wife and loving mother seemed to be enough. And yet, I’m grateful to live in a time when it is possible for a woman to fly to the moon, be CEO of a fortune 500 company, or maybe even be President some day. It’s from these conflicted feelings that I created this body of work.
While paying homage to the lifestyle of the 50s housewife is of first order, there are several other factors at work here. Evidence of physical beauty, humor, nostalgia, and sexual innuendo are found throughout the work. But for me, the meatiest pieces are those that confront the stereotype fo the 50s woman. Where the viewer might at first glance think that I am mocking the innuendo of the ad, I very well might not be. For example TRUSHAY page 29 exhibits a two-sided woman (home-lover/party-lover). My initial response to this ad was, “Isn’t that funny? The only two things the 50s woman had to worry bout was home-making and entertaining.” Then I thought, “I wish those were the only two things I had to worry about!” But, my piece-de-resistance of the show was BORDEN’S page 151 in which Elsie the Borden Cow asks “What’s wrong with marriage as a career?” I again queried myself, “Is there something wrong with it? Would I be satisfied as a woman if I mad marriage my career?” Where the advertising of the 50s told a woman that she would be satisfied in this way, the advertising of the x-generation tells a completely different story. “JUST DO IT”, that’s what we are told now. Don’t settle for being a wife and mother. Do it all, and do it all well.
Perhaps you will look at the images and think about what they meant in terms or your mother’s or grandmother’s development. You may just find them funny or nostalgic. You might identify with the bygone ideals they represent. Or you might be compelled to consider how contemporary advertising continues to feed on women’s insecurities. These visually strong paintings, teeter on the precarious edge between email stereotyping and re-examination of prevalent feminist issues. With this work, I address not only my personal concerns about being the beautiful wife, the good mother, and the happy homemaker, but I also address far-reaching cultural issues affecting every woman.
date | 2000
price range | $750 to $3,300