The Fabulous Fifties – Mamie Eisenhower, Two of Diamonds
2000, oil and acrylic on canvas, 46.5 x 73.5”
Between the years 1921 and 1922, Mamie Eisenhower would morn the loss of her son Icky, move to Panama, and give birth to her only other child, John. She would also do something that would go down in history — Mamie would cut her bangs.
Between 1942 and 1945, Ike would become a household name, a world-famous general, and an American war hero.
By the early fifties, Mamie’s unhappiness, brought on by long separations from her husband and the painful rumors of a possible war-time affair, would be only memories. Things were looking up for Mamie, and the nation had time to notice her bangs. This was the fabulous fifties.
Mamie was an active player in both of Ike’s presidential campaigns. The lady in pink basked in the attention and gained a large following of admirers. Even Ike wore an “I like Mamie” button. In 1952, campaign songs such as “Mamie” and “I want Mamie” could be heard. Optimism and faith in the American dream was on the rise. For the first time, large numbers of women went to the ballot, and a president was elected on the woman’s vote. This was not surprising, since the bulk of Ike’s campaign targeted the American housewife. There were slogans such as “Let’s sweep out the White House” and “Be a party girl,” and there were promises to “bring the boys back” (from Korea). Paraphernalia such as “I like Ike” stockings, telephones, and broaches could be purchased. You could even buy a Mamie tape dispenser. Mamie would serve as First lady from 1953 until 1961, and millions of American women would cut their bangs.
Mamie’s portrait started out as an older version of Mamie; she was 56 when the Eisenhowers entered the White House in 1953. But this is a painting of the fabulous fifties! So I put on my rose-colored glasses and Mamie became an ideal woman of the era — a bright-eyed lady in pink, smiling with innocent optimism through time. The fifties, however, were not so simple or so blissful. Widespread injustice was brewing, giving birth to the civil rights and labor movements. This was the first time large numbers of women voted in opposition to their husbands — so a couple can be seen kissing while holding buttons from the opposing parties behind each others backs. The fifties was an era of subliminal advertising, so there are two of hearts hidden throughout the painting. Of course everyone was tooting their own horn, so there is even a plug for me (the painter) — can you find it?