A reflexive arts investigation: An examination of the shifting gendered identities of mother and daughter through psychodynamic and feminist discourses.
AbstractThis research is the culmination of nine years of collaborative and individual arts practice with my daughter, using a range of collaborative and individual art practices to document the stages of my daughter’s development and learning through play and experimentation with art materials. The thesis is a lived enquiry which gives my daughter authorship as co researcher, offering a unique insight into her understanding and learning through arts practice. The arts practice provides a voice to the child, which has been lost to the performativity metrics of the school institution. The research acknowledges the multiple identities of the researcher, mother, artist and educator. As an artist I live and embody the creative and critical inquiry, as the researcher I respond to the culture of the research community and as an educator / mother I respond to others involved in the artistic inquiry. The practice-based thesis consists of two interconnected elements: an exhibition of art practice created by me and my daughter working both symbiotically and independently accompanied by a written account of the process. The art work is a collection of early drawings and experimental mark-making, photographs, screen prints, casts and embossed papers which trace my daughter’s emotional development as she navigates her infancy, latency and emerging adolescence. At the same time the Exhibition documents the parallel processes in me as an artist/teacher and mother of my only child, through her infancy, childhood and adolescence. The practice-based thesis illustrates that healthy separation is a crucial feature of normal development, emerging identity and the journey from dependence, interdependence to independence. The shared and individual arts practice creates an external representation of what is usually an internal, invisible emotional struggle as mothers separate from their children and children strive for their right to become adults independent of their parents. This iii transitional movement is visible in the art practice. Psychodynamic ideas such as the mother as an object and a container are explored as boundaries are maintained by the mother despite being challenged by the daughter; at first these challenges are resisted and then, reluctantly relinquished by the mother. The mother’s own childhood is inevitably present in the art work and the analysis. This thesis adopts an autobiographical, ethnographic and reflexive approach, consequently the findings can only be subjective. It exposes a highly personal journey which is both painful and joyful. It offers insights into how an artist/teacher/mother can engage with a developing child through providing a containing relationship in which shared arts practice reveals and exposes in painstaking detail how separation is navigated as an ongoing, dynamic process. The art itself explores in very concrete ways how boundaries are sometimes held firmly and how they sometimes move, how emerging identity evolves, fades, changes and is finally brought into sharp relief. A parent who herself is not contained will find it difficult to contain her child through the ordinary turbulence of childhood.
CitationSampson-Chappell, L. (2019). A reflexive arts investigation: An examination of the shifting gendered identities of mother and daughter through psychodynamic and feminist discourses (Doctoral dissertation). University of Chester, UK.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
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