In case you missed our amazing e-blasts and social media posts, Hilary Tait Norod has taken over the walls (and floor) of the Chandler Gallery with her thoughtful, bold colored artwork. We had the opportunity to sit (at home, separately) with Hilary and ask her about the currently displayed work.
With your loveseat piece you explain that, “There is no evidence that the loveseat will collapse or fall apart,” yet it’s made deliberately to appear as though it might with the constructed chaos around it.
“Just to clarify that sentence was written by Jess Leach in response to interview questions she asked me prior to the show. In order to give you more information about the conceptuality of this particular piece it’d be helpful to describe the construction. It started off with two individual antique wooden chairs that were given to me by my husband’s aunt. The chairs were used for years in his family and I wanted to find a way to unite them together as one, creating a platform for love.
My approach is always experimental, a thinking-as-making process. The two chairs had rounded edges on their insides, but with a hand saw I trimmed the curves to make the chairs sit flush with one another, to create a more traditional loveseat. Using materials such as wood and nails, and binding textiles like rope, twine, bed sheets and yarn, I combined them as one.
It was a very repetitive process, weaving random objects into the confines of the textiles, creating obstacles to work around and find successful paths for the rope to travel. The chaotic placement and use of mixed materials reflects the personal histories that individuals bring to a relationship, like societal, gender or familial expectations and new hurdles the couple will face together.”
Can you dive more into this tension that you created and how it personally relates to the ideas of gender roles in a marriage?
“Our society has placed a lot of expectations and biases on gender roles in domestic partnerships. I think often of my frustrations with the history of marriage and the strong traditional gender roles that can continue to contribute to our patriarchal society. Yet while I was starting this new body of work I was also planning my wedding to my husband Jack and I could not wait to marry him. The tension in my work is political, personal and will continue to be something that exists in relationships, no matter the gender.
My process of inquisitive discovery during development parallels my personal approach to a healthy partnership. We can’t predict where tensions will lie or may be conjured from originally but we can alleviate our tensions together by working through it as we go.
For example, take the issue of inequality of pay between genders and the adversity that women continue to work against. It’s a topic that must repeatedly be acknowledged and discussed. You have to find and be willing to find tension points, sometimes you discover them in yourself and sometimes in each other, and then you can build towards alleviating them. I want to foster conversations that support gender equity and increase awareness of the existing inequalities. Through self-awareness and communication my husband and I have continued to expose and learn from our preconceived notions of gender.”
This loveseat piece was part of your MFA thesis from LUCAD. How did being in the program change your artwork making process? Or how did it push you to articulate your work? Were these gender role themes appearing in your artwork before the program, or before this project?
“The MFA program at Lesley University had an extremely prudent and pivotal impact on my studio practices. The program focuses on concept, the thesis of your work and it’s convictions. Gender roles were always involved in my work but I didn’t quite understand how invested in the conceptuality they were before.
For example, I had created a series of work prior to the MFA that involved interviewing couples and translating their relationships; quirks and balances, onto the canvas. Once inside the program I desired a more personal and autobiographical lense, initiating the depiction of my personal relationships and my family’s history of marriage.”
You really moved off the canvas in this exhibition – what was your inspiration to try these new materials in your work?
“My work first moved away from the canvas a few years ago when I was painting images of bedrooms and beds as a metaphor for intimacy and romantic partnerships. Soon after I began using my own bed sheets as the substrate for paintings, using the fabric as a representation of a diaristic personal history. This quickly transformed to sculptural practices of stiffening the fabric, re-shaping three-dimensionally, and adding mixed materials to the sheets. Pretty quickly the three-dimensional shift advanced with other domestic objects such as architectural scraps, furniture, and more.”
Did you run into any challenges executing your vision on the mirrors?
“I knew I wanted to create a space that reflected and took into consideration the architecture of the Chandler Gallery. My first concern was not to overwhelm the space with sculptures and that my paintings were traditionally too large for the walls.
Therefore I wanted to utilize mirrors to visually enlarge the space. But I had never worked with this media before. It would require a different consideration to balance composition and allow the majority of the surface to remain as the mirror.
The biggest challenge I had was making sure the painted portion visually connected to the rest of the work while still contributing to the overall thematics of the exhibition. I went through a lot of sketches of different objects that I could paint on each mirror that would connect conceptually but they also had to hold their own as an individual work. And trust me, there were several discarded sketches that did not make the cut!”
I also love the way you installed the mirrors to give the illusion of space within a space – how does the title, “There’s No House Inside Love” play into the installation of the work?
“Thank you! The mirror titled “There’s No House Inside of Love” initiates a conversation that Love is Home. A house requires fundamentals that professionals have mastered. But we have no manual for love or relationships.
Each partner needs to be recognized and self-awareness plays an important role. So Love is Home, take a look in the mirror, but remember love is not a house equipped with blueprints.”
You are fearless when it comes to the size of your artwork, the work, “I Doubled my Sleep Shirts when I met you,” are 2D sculptures, is this a style of “off the wall'” work, you see yourself moving towards?
“I love working big, my largest paintings to date were three 8 foot by 10 foot paintings. It really is the most exhilarating and feels most honest when I’m using my whole body to create on a large scale. But the standing painting “I Double My Sleep Shirts When I Met You” is that size for a reason, it is life size to both my husband, Jack and myself. It is the size he occupies when he sleeps.
Thus a full scale standing canvas becomes confrontational and realistic, merging with my surrealist tendencies. I do see myself creating more of these, I would love to have a whole series of them. But they are difficult and time consuming to make. I built the stands myself, with the help of my sister-in-law, and I am not very well versed in carpentry so it was a lot of trial and error.”
How are you handling this sudden and life changing moments with the covid19? Do you think your work will reflect the current stresses we’re living through?
“Tough question! I am very actively producing many works of art right now with the stay-at-home order in place due to COVID-19. For the time being I have decided to focus on painting imagery that conceptually follows the body of work I created before this pandemic.
To be honest, I’m not sure I want to or know how to approach this current time in my work. I want to use art as a connector now through social media in
this trying time and I hope that creatives can use digital interactions to bring inspiration and interest. Maybe this is my way of attempting to distract myself. But I continue to create day-to-day and allow my responses to evolve. ”
And what is your next goal?
“For this reason and belief in connectivity I am working on my social media practices. Becoming disciplined to post regularly while creating fun content, like time-lapse videos. The work will continue with my concepts of domesticity, although I’m sure issues like social distancing will intrinsically find a way into the work.
Currently I am creating large canvas works, while simultaneously working on small works on paper as continued exploration of new imagery to depict these concepts. Feel free to follow me on instagram @hilarytaitnorodand let me know what you think!“