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Joyce, S 2008, 'Picturing lesbian, informing art therapy : a postmodern feminist autobiographical investigation', PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright S Joyce 2008


Within art therapy discourses there is a dearth of scholarly literature related to the dilemmas of voicing lesbianism and picturing lesbians. This is the result of sustained discrimination and censorship worldwide. In order to address this issue, a research study was designed to investigate this topic and its relationship to informing art therapy.

There were two research methods and two research processes used in the project. Autobiography and art based research were the methods, and intertextuality and reflexivity were the research processes. The methodology that underpinned the project was postmodern-feminism.

Autobiographical material created through an art-based research method was reflexively viewed. The newly created visual texts stimulated intertextual links to past visual and written texts. These texts were used to map and track deeply held assumptions found embedded in essentialist, dualistic and modernist paradigms. By the use of postmodernfeminism deconstruction and reconstruction the investigation exposed and interrogated paradigm shifts resulting in subsequent personal transformations.

The study revealed how past personal experiences of homophobia, lesbian invisibility and mental health treatment were deeply embedded in gender/sexuality norms, visual art discourse and social stigmatisation. These experiences impacted significantly on the ability to verbally and visually reveal both lesbian and lesbianism, and as such impacted on perceptual shaping of multiple selves within self. The study further demonstrated how the postmodern-feminist investigation destabilised dominant paradigms and subverted their location in “truth”, allowing for reconstruction of selves to be explicitly pictured.

The significance of the findings for art therapy is three fold. Firstly, by offering a postmodern-feminist perspective through a lesbian lens, embedded modernist paradigms central to art therapy discourse are challenged. Secondly, the creative process of image making, within a postmodern-feminist frame is showcased. Within such a process change can be mobilised and self perceptions can be transformed. Thirdly, the study has advanced art therapy towards a more contemporary and critically informed discipline, one that can reflect on possible dilemmas encountered by lesbian clientele when verbally or visually self representing. The implications of the study have several intersections for the broader arts and health care sectors.