The 108 clothing items contributed to Collecting Loss, once documented, were cut apart into small pieces. Using a technique of machine embroidery, these were then re-sewn together to create a collective fabric, ultimately becoming 10 new items of clothing, and a teddy bear.
By using threads and words as the main medium, these textile works and poems re-piece individual lives and identities together, and in doing so, give grief a tangible form and shared container.
Instead of being presented flat on the wall, these works are suspended in the gallery space and given a three-dimensional form. Viewers are invited to contemplate both the space in-between the threads and the hollow space inside the garments. Both represent, the absence of a physical body, while paradoxically alluding to its presence.
Navigating empty space can become quite difficult after a death because it is a perpetual reminder of who is no longer there, who we can no longer touch. Collecting Loss gives an emergent voice to this empty space and silence. It speaks to the seemingly permanent intangibility of loss.
The pieces, like the original clothing, are deeply personal and intimate. They make public what is kept most private, creating a link between self and community. They remind us that we are interconnected by grief and that we should never be alone to deal with our loss.
It is our hope that this work can serve as inspiration
to show what it is possible to create with and through loss.
By clicking on the image below you will be able to view the exhibit, as it was presented in November 2013 at Gallery 918, Toronto. A second exhibition of the works took place in Montréal October 16-19, 2019 at Yellow Fish Art Gallery. All the textile works were created by Esther Kalaba and the poems written by Karen Haffey. The stories were audio recorded and made available next to the piece they were included in.
It is our hope that the work does not end here and that in some way it can continue to inspire an on-going dialogue. Please subscribe to get news about any future exhibits or related activities. Find out more about the history of the project by reading the organizers’ essays.
As you view these works, you may recall the threads of your own stories about people you love, who have died. Hopefully you will be encouraged to share them with others. Perhaps here, you will be inspired to use your hands to create memories in forms that allow you to keep remembering. Perhaps here, you will be able to pause, take a deep breath, and know that you are being held within the silent framework of community that is able to honour your loss, and to witness your sorrow.