YOUNGER WOMEN TODAY DON’T HAVE A clue about the ’50s,” says Judy Olausen, 49. “A woman couldn’t even get a job, except as a secretary, nurse or teacher.” Olausen (oh-LAW-sen), who lives in Minneapolis, has it better. She’s a photographer whose lens has captured Andy Warhol, Chuck and Di and other celebs. But her greatest subject is Vivian Olausen, 72, the ’50s woman she calls Mom.
One day in 1990, Olausen posed Vivian down on all fours, her back supporting a kidney-shaped plate of glass, in the living room of Mom’s Wayzata, Minn., home. Mother as Coffee Table, a vision of housewifely submission, launched a series of (so far) 20 pictures depicting Vivian as Doormat, Stepford Wife and Roadkill.
Olausen, married to a postmaster’s assistant, stresses that the photos (which she hopes to publish as a book by next Mother’s Day) satirize a stereotype, not Vivian, a widow she describes as “always loving and patient.” Very patient. Though even June Cleaver might have resented rope burns from being hoisted aloft to pose as Flying Mom, Vivian doesn’t mind. “I’m just Judy’s model,” she says, smiling. “I leave it all up to her.”