Work Reviewed
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Canadian Jewish News
Sherry Smither

Art Installation Allows You to walk in Ed’s shoes

Tucked away in a small red gallery on the second floor of the Honest Ed’s store is Iris Häussler’s art installation, Honest Threads. The exhibit of clothing, framed photos and a description of the memories they carry drew a crowd of 350 people to the recent opening.

Artist Iris Häussler addresses the crowd at the opening of  her exhibit at Honest Ed’s called Honest Threads.


Presented by Koffler Centre of the Arts, the installation includes 105 framed photos of people wearing cherished garments, with personal stories underneath, as well as a display of those garments and others, all lent by Torontonians. Visitors can even take some of the clothes home to wear for a few days and thus share in the experience.

Honest Threads seems at home in Toronto’s landmark Honest Ed’s – after all, with its charming collection of celebrity photos and memorabilia, the store is more than a bargain hunter’s paradise.

Häussler is known for installing work in unique locations. In 2006, she chose a downtown Toronto house for her project The Legacy of Joseph Wagenbach, based on a fictional artist who filled his home with sculptures.

While she continues to create characters and environments that reveal past histories, both fictional and real, she’s also interested in what makes people individuals.

“The roots of Honest Threads lie in what shapes our identity. Clothing is a small part of that,” Häussler told The CJN before the opening reception. “I originally developed this project 14 years ago in Germany on the Polish-German border, but it did not spark because it needed maintenance and care – it’s built on trust of the people who share something when they generously lend a garment to someone who can care for it for a little while.”

This time, Häussler’s project received the necessary maintenance and care from the Koffler Centre. Honest Threads marks the Koffler Gallery’s first off-site exhibition prior to its June closing while the new 40,000-square-foot Koffler Centre of the Arts is built – it’s scheduled to be completed in 2011.

There to celebrate the exhibition’s opening were Honest Ed’s David and Audrey Mirvish, Koffler Centre chair of the board Tiana Koffler Boyman and executive director Lori Starr, and Art Gallery of Ontario CEO Matthew Teitelbaum.

Clothing on exhibit includes Ed Mirvish’s patent leather shoes, and a hat and suede jacket belonging to Matthew Teitelbaum’s late father, Mashel Teitelbaum, a Toronto artist for more than 30 years. In the accompanying photo, Mashel is seen wearing the hat in 1960, on the deck of a boat with his daughter, Mara, who submitted the clothing.

Lori Starr lent a beaded jacket she received from a 90-year-old friend when Starr moved from Los Angeles.

Another participant, Elizabeth Peereboom, lent Häussler her grandmother’s blue dress given toPeereboomand her motheron a visit totheSoviet Union in the 1980s.The visitcame44 years after the Nazis forcedPeereboom’s mother, thena teenager, to leave home to work in Germany.

Peereboomwrites, “Although the dress can’t talk, we need to keep the stories alive of the people who precede us for those who come after.”

What does Häussler plan to do with the framed pieces? “Till now, I have kept it a secret, but I will give each participant the framed picture back with their story. I’m not interested in harvesting these stories, I just set the frame for people to tell their stories.”