Fashion & alienation in 1960s New York: Marisol’s, The Party

At this party, everyone has the same face and seems profoundly alone

Marisol Escobar, The Party, 1965-66, fifteen freestanding, life-size figures and three wall panels, with painted and carved wood, mirrors, plastic, television set, clothes, shoes, glasses, and other accessories, variable dimensions (Toledo Museum of Art, © artist’s estate)

Marisol, The Party

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Key Points

  • The booming economy and mass media of the 1950s popularized an American ideal of the middle-class lifestyle, where conspicuous consumption promised happiness and status. Yet, many women were increasingly frustrated by expectations to conform to socially constructed gender roles.
  • Marisol’s The Party suggests a social gathering, but emphasizes a sense of disconnect and isolation. The blocks of wood confine her figures and suggest an overpowering loneliness, even as they are gathered together and surrounded with convivial details. Marisol used her own face for each figure, wanting to create a larger social commentary without criticizing specific people.
  • Marisol has been overlooked by art history, in part because her work is difficult to place within any specific style or movement. Working at the height of Abstract Expressionism, she opted to focus on the human figure. Her bright colors and recognizable subjects are similar to Pop Art, but her social critique and emphasis on the personal and handmade stand apart.

 

Go Deeper

This sculpture at the Toledo Museum of Art

Read Marisol’s 2016 obituary in The New York Times.

Learn more about Marisol’s connection to Andy Warhol and Pop Art in the 1960s.

Learn about Betty Friedan’s 1963 publication The Feminist Mystique that described the discontent experienced by many women in the late 1950s.

What is second wave feminism?

Learn more about the Equal RIghts Amendment through primary source documents

Read about the current status of the Equal Rights Amendment

 

More to think about

Norman Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter, which was painted in 1943, shows a woman who has broken from traditional gender norms. How does Marisol’s depiction of the female figure in The Party—made 20 years later—differ from Rosie?

Norman Rockwell, Rosie the Riveter, 1943, oil on canvas, 52 x 40 inches (Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art)

Norman Rockwell, Rosie the Riveter, 1943, oil on canvas, 52 x 40 inches (Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art)


Smarthistory images for teaching and learning:

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Explore the diverse history of the United States through its art. Seeing America is funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Alice L. Walton Foundation.