Artist Iris Haussler will tell you that she grew up in a house free of any objects of curiosity. However, her mother was a pharmacist and her father a veterinarian, so many of the objects in her childhood home were actually quite evocative.
As one of nine people in a busy household, Haussler was often left to her own imagination. She created narratives for imaginary characters to entertain herself. Some were based on experiences from when she joined her father as he was caring for farm animals in the countryside. Sometimes, the two would end up visiting slaughterhouses.
Haussler’s work is an immersive experience, going from a seemingly normal living space to intriguing, and sometimes disturbing scenes, behind closed doors. See for yourself at her show, "Apartment 4," which is currently on display at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan.
The installation tells the public and private story of the fictional, imagined nurse Florence Hasard, through the experience of walking through her “home.” As the story goes, Hasard was a French immigrant who arrived in Milwaukee in the 1920s. The life of Haussler's character plays out in a series of rooms that invite guests to make themselves comfortable and engage with what’s around them.
“It’s a woman who has basically no one to turn to with her trauma, so she lives it out, but she feels the isolation about that. She is somebody who is not in conversation with the outside world and with a community," Haussler says. "I want my artwork to not represent a biography, but rather to be a canvas for other people to resonate with their own experience, their own memory, their own traumas to it.”
Haussler spoke with contributor Gianofer Fields from her home in Canada via Skype. In this edition of Radio Chipstone, Fields and Haussler discuss the emotional context of the work and discover that while Florence Hasard is a product of Haussler's imagination, she is in fact very real:
Material culture contributor Gianofer Fields curates the Radio Chipstone series. The project is funded by the Chipstone Foundation, a decorative arts foundation whose mission is preserving and interpreting their collection, as well as stimulating research and education in the decorative arts.