Are you looking at me? The reciprocal gaze and art psychotherapy

Heather Tuffery


This article explores and presents the reciprocal nature of looking between two objects, making the link between the reciprocity of the maternal gaze and the relationship between art object and spectator. I argue that the work of Lacan, in particular the theorising of the gaze as an objet petit a presses for the continued and further exploration into the possibilities of gaze transactions. As visual imagery is central to art psychotherapy, so is the interwoven act of looking that is caught in art making and viewing. I argue that gaze transactions brought about by the making and viewing of art can offer the opportunity for creating, re-establishing and working with lost, broken, and unavailable gazes in which the reciprocal gaze can occur.

Keywords: Maternal gaze, objet petit a, art therapy, reciprocity, aesthetics

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