Desire and Avoidance in Art: Pablo Picasso, Hans Bellmer, Balthus, and Joseph Cornell. Psychobiographical Studies with Attachment Theory
Desire and Avoidance in Art argues that while early developmental traumas can produce life-long creative endeavors with striking aesthetic results, they may also, for the male artist, result in destructive relations with women. Brink introduces the scheme of personality formation - as found in the work on infant and child development of John Bowlby, Mary Ainsworth, Mary Main, Patricia Crittenden, Allen N. Schore, and others - to explore a new venture in psychobiography. He effectively uses the concept of «anxious attachment» to describe mother-infant/child relations and their sequelae. Using pertinent developmental data found in each artist’s childhood, Andrew Brink accounts for the anxious-avoidant attachment style (or, in Crittenden’s terminology, the Anxious/Controlling style) from which these artists suffered. He aims to explain why partnerships with women are sometimes hazardous and frequently tragic for male artists by referencing various feminist writers. Based on their viewpoints, Brink extracts psychodynamic explanations that are largely based on what the artists’ imagery reveals. Furthermore, he explains how the attachment theory of attraction-avoidance is shown to supplement and enrich other ways of understanding chronically tense relations between the sexes. Brink focuses his attention on artists such as Picasso, Bellmer, Balthus, and Cornell, who are culturally powerful and often stimulate discussion about misogynic figures within a social context.
Bellmer, Balthus, and Cornell are samples enough to show where the most pervasive and disabling recent cultural anxieties lie, and how avoidant male artists have taken the risks to engage with that which frightens them most. Their fright (consciously denied and dismissed) can be enlightening if reasons are given for certain bizarre presentations of female faces and bodies found in their art. This is an ambitious thesis, a try at connecting basic research in attachment with cultural
in the curiously allusive and oblique Memories of the Doll Theme. Had Bellmer been able to assimilate and understand what had actually happened in this youthful episode with girls, he would have been able to report it in much clearer language. As it is, he conveys only indistinctly the intensity of sexual anxiety which helps to explain the compulsive repetition with which his doll art unfolded. The dolls were the final objectification of repeated attempts to capture in inanimate objects Bellmer’s
was writing about someone as unscrupulous as he was brilliant ... I pretty much stopped meeting with Balthus”, p. 235. 64. Jean Clair ed., Balthus , p. 131 65. Vanished Splendors, p. 165. BALTHUS 66. 67. 68. 69. Ibid., p. 88. Ibid., p. 150. Balthus in his Own Words, p. 9. Vanished Splendors, p. 230. 137 138 DESIRE AND AVOIDANCE Joseph Cornell 5 Joseph Cornell: Avoidance and Enchantment The attachment system has been conceptualized as a mechanism for regulating distress. Securely
admit to feeling fear at its absence, the lashing out admitting that he is at a loss to know how to improve the situation. Thus, an element of irrational disorganization enters, but disorganization is not the defining description of A/C personality as coercive anger may at least secure attention if not win affection. There are variants of avoidance upon reunion with mother, ranging from conspicuous dismissal of attachment to mixed responses of approach and withdrawal. No rigid formula should be
or healing episodes that abound in the journal. These are esthetic moments of sometimes visionary intensity. For example, Cornell reports that, having overcome the urge to “city wanderlust”, he was working in the cellar on Cockatoo For Pasta (1956), “being overcome again by the great beauty of WHITE in this box”. His entire sensibility was thereby heightened and, emerging into the open upstairs, he saw a “grandiose cloud of cumulus over tree top”. When combined, “Pasta [the box] & clouds again