MFA Candidate Group 3
May 1, 2011
Klein and Winnicott
The concepts advanced by psychoanalyst Melanie Klein and built upon by D. W. Winnicott provide a solid foundation for understanding the usefulness provided by the attachment of meaningful fantasy upon objects and using art to help individuals realize their true self. These concepts deal with the attachment of fantasy to objects that become beneficial to a child's transition from one state of emotional development to another higher level of development. Both Klein and Winnicott view the mother's primary role as that of allowing the child to use them and objects in their immediate environment as items upon which fantasy concepts may be attached, thereby promoting successful transitions from one stage of psychological development to another. They assert that mothers who are not "good enough" hinder children's progress through the needed stages of development and lead to those children becoming individuals who often require therapy later in life (Robbins). Artists can find their “true self” through art and how the objects are manipulated.
Winnicott is well known for his work on primitive emotional development of young children and how that development relates to the adaptations in the early life of all individuals. His theories describe circumstances whereby children use object fantasy in order to move emotionally from the level of fantasy to that of reality. He saw the area between reality and fantasy as necessary not only in child development but also in adult mental health, specifically in locating what he called “true self” (Rodman 265). He believed that if the space in between is not experienced then a false self is created. According to Winnicott, objects give infants some control at a time in life when they have little control over anything else (Rodman 399). A "good enough" mother allows herself to become an object to be used by the infant in order for the child to progress from one psychological level to another. Klein had viewed the infant in its physical relationship to the world, and its relationship with its mother, as a set of part objects (Klein 35). She viewed the mother's breast as often providing the first object whereby a child would attach a fantasy, and as forming the basis of the child's super-ego. Using her theories, Winnicott determined that an individual who lacked this necessary relationship would fail to fully develop emotionally and psychologically.
Children who do not have a "good enough" mother become adults with gaps in their psychological development. This creates people who do not know their “true self”. As Winnicott continued to develop his hypothesis, he came to realize that since so many of his patients had suffered from the same parenting deficiencies, what was required of him and his peers were to become "good enough" psychoanalysts. He concluded that a "good enough" psychoanalyst provided the same benefit to a regressed patient and allowed the patient to use the psychoanalyst as an object to allow movement from the patient's regressed state to a more normal state of emotional development. (Tubar)
My concept of art is that "good enough" art can be used as therapy to help individuals to realize their true self as artists. Objects of art can be manipulated by individuals whereby they attach fantasies that allow them to improve the realization of their true selves. My work builds on earlier work by Klein and Winnicott and their theories of fantasy attachment to objects, i.e. attachment of fantasy to objects such as wedding gowns, teddy bears, concepts of home, etc. Connotations (often unconsciously) associated with such objects are developed almost exclusively in the minds of individuals through the phenomena of fantasy. For example; most women find their wedding dress to be a sacred like object giving it extreme value often preserving it in a special box to keep forever. This allows the women to hold on to the moment in which they were wearing the dress. After interviewing many individuals I found that a large number of people, no matter the age, still have their childhood teddy bear and it is their most significant object. In my installation work, I have re-created a fantastical place from childhood thus allowing viewers to create a moment in their memories. I am challenging what an object of art is and how it can be recreated. Most often the attachment to the object stems from a memory with which the object is associated. Objects of art may be manipulated by individuals in order to deal with gaps in emotional development and may help them to heal and move to a better view of their true self.
The beliefs established from Klein and Winnicott help us to understand how our fantasy of an attachment to an object creates our “true self” by finding the in between place from reality and fantasy. These notions of attachments to fantasy objects are important to a child’s evolution from one level of development to the next. Both Klein and Winnicott postulate the mother should be "good enough" to allow the child to create an attachment to her for the best transition from one psychological stage to the next thus allowing for a well advanced adult. Artists, such as me, often find objects to manipulate that allow us to find our true self. In the unraveling of a wedding dress I was able to understand more of how I felt when wearing it and how it had become a symbol of an un-happy marriage. I was able to create a cocoon to signify the meaning of the object and the fantasy that I had created in my unconscious. Artists are able to re-create fantasies to better understand what lies within their true self.
Klein, Melanie. Envy and Gratitude, and Other Works, 1946-1963. New York: Free, 1984. Print.
Grosskurth, Phyllis. Melanie Klein: Her World and Her Work. New York: Knopf, 1986. Print.
Sayers, Janet. Mothers of Psychoanalysis: Helene Deutsch, Karen Horney, Anna Freud, Melanie Klein. New York: W.W. Norton, 1991. Print.
Winnicott, D. W., Clare Winnicott, Ray Shepherd, and Madeleine Davis. Babies and Their Mothers. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1987. Print.
Winnicott, D. W., Clare Winnicott, Ray Shepherd, and Madeleine Davis. Home Is Where We Start From: Essays by a Psychoanalyst. New York: Norton, 1986. Print.
Rodman, F. Robert. Winnicott: Life and Work. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Pub., 2003. Print.
Tuber, Steven. Attachment, Play and Authenticity: a Winnicott Primer. Lanham, MD: Jason Aronson, 2008. Print.
Robbins, Brent Dean. "Winnicott." Mythos & Logos. 22 July 2008. Web. 05 May 2011.