Messager admires the writings of Bruno Bettelheim, who asserted in The Uses of Enchantment (New York: Vintage, 1989) that fairy tales have a psychological function for children in that they gain an understanding of nature not through rational comprehension of it but by making it familiar in imaginative play. Bettelheim writes: "[The child] can achieve this understanding, and with it the ability to cope, not through rational comprehension of the nature and content of his unconscious, but by becoming familiar with it through spinning out daydreams--ruminating, rearranging and fantasizing about suitable story elements in response to unconscious pressures. Fairy tales offer new dimensions to a child's imagination and suggest images." Following Bettelheim's ideas, Messager mixes ordinary objects with fairy-tale concoctions like the man-in-the-moon and mythical characters such as the spider-woman Arachne, to create a visual fantasia which cannot be interpreted fully in a rational way.

Image above: detail of Chimaeras (Chimères). 1982-84. Acrylic and oil on gelatin-silver prints mounted on mesh, approximately 96 x 72 inches (243.8 x 183 cm). Collection the artist.


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