In a 2017 review in Art In America, Milena Tomic wrote, “Iris Häussler has subsumed her identity in fictional artistic persona.” Second self, fictional artistic persona or alternative personalities are manifestations of an alter ego. Although many artists embody an alter ego as a creative tool, Iris Häussler has employed this creative tactic with not one, but many characters of varying ages and genders throughout her decades-long career.
Häussler’s process involves an initial phase of extensive on-site research. After she finds an intriguing story line, she inserts herself—often under the guise of a character—into the timeline of a particular art history. Working collaboratively with many contributors, she seeks to build the story of this character into the form of an exhibition. Interviews, artifacts, memorabilia, and artworks are also included to build context and reveal aspects of her chosen track of historical research. Generating questions about research methods, regional art history, and the role of fiction in our daily lives, her exhibitions are at once informative and playful.
In this exhibition, Häussler introduces a new character, Florence Hasard, for the first time to American audiences at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center. A French immigrant, Florence arrived in Milwaukee in the 1920s and, at this stage in the research, it is believed she was connected to Layton School of Art founders Charlotte Partridge and Miriam Frink, the WPA Wisconsin Handicraft Project, and the Milwaukee craft community. The details of her story and artworks will be revealed in the exhibition Tale of Two: Iris Häussler. There is a trace of Florence in Milwaukee after 1942, but we look to the recently discovered inventory of her paintings, drawings, sketches, and notes for clues of her experience in the region during the post-war era in Wisconsin.
This exhibition is supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Funding was also provided by the Kohler Trust for the Arts and Education, Kohler Foundation, Inc., and Sargento Foods Inc. The Arts Center thanks its many members for their support of exhibitions and programs through the year.