The Art of the Interview: Hilary Tait Norod

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.

If You’re A Chair, I’m A Chair, wooden chairs, twine, wood, fabric, yarn, paint and other mixed materials, 36″ x 48″ x 24″

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.

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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? 

Hilary Tait Norod_Please Don't Read Into This, A Break Up Mix Tape
“Please Don’t Read Into This: A Break-Up Mixtape” Oil, paster, acrylic, metal, foam, stitches, collage, thread, on bed sheet, 100″ x 80″

“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.

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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?

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“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. 

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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.”

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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. Hilary Tait Norod- You're The Purple In Me, oil on mirror 24 x 30 $200

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!

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Develop Your Sketchbook With Boriana

March 30th has arrived and as promised we have prompts from Boriana Kantcheva’s ‘Develop Your Sketchbook.’ Get your art supplies out, have some fun and tag us on Instagram , or use the #developyoursketchbook to share your projects!

Shapes – working with simple organic shapes like circles, ovals and nature inspired shapes.

Use watercolors or inks:  Painting shapes with wet paint and letting colors mixed together, students can use a monochromatic pallet or complementary colors.


Create rows of shapes or a pattern over the entire sheet of paper or if using a sketchbook over the two page spread. Let yourself explore the simple mixing of colors and creating shapes no need to use pencil to outline the shapes.

The next step is to try working wet over dry. Let the shapes dry. Ones they are dry use a different color to add a glaze over the dried color.


For example, if you have yellow shapes add some transparent green on top. Working wet over dry allows for less bleeding and mixing of colors.

In my next step I like to use gouache to create opaque shapes often painting them on top of the more transparent watercolor shapes. It makes for a nice contrast. If you do not have gouache you can use acrylic paint.

Notice the difference between the shapes painted with gouache, they are solid and the colors are usually more vibrant.

I also like to add small details using gouache paint and a small brush. And lastly, if you have gel pens or sharpie markers use them to add additional details like lines, dots or outline some of the forms.


Have fun and don’t over think this exercise! 


New day, new project!

Good Afternoon! Today I wanted to share one of my favorite projects; masking tape painting! Perfect for exploring colors, and a bit of experimenting, this is a tried and true project that is good for all artists.

I added a bit of a twist on it, so for those of you who like crisp edges, layering colors, doodling and/or all of the above this project is especially for you!


Materials List

  • Watercolors* – can also use markers/crayons/color pencils
  • Pens
  • Scotch tape
  • Card stock (thick paper works best)*If using watercolor a paint brush, sheet of paper towel, jar of water, jar lid ( used as a palette.)

Step One:
For watercolor projects, I like to create a white framed border. I use tape to mask off that area first. A tip when using this techniques is to make your tape less sticky – this will keep your paper from tearing too much, and make it come off easier. To make your tape less sticky you basically just stick it to you clothes first to pull up some of the lint. It won’t look pretty when it goes on the paper, but it’s temporary so no worries!

After I mask off the edges, I keep select a few other areas within the painting area to mask off, too. You can do this randomly or try to create specific shapes. Make sure the tape is down well on the paper to prevent leaks – although leaks can produce cools results, too.

Tip! Fold the tape to create a tab at the end so it’s easier to grab later!

Step Two:
Grab your watercolors – or medium of choice – and color in the open areas. You can use solid colors applied light or dark, play with creating gradients, or mixing colors. Revisit our shared post on painting with watercolors, for some inspiration, or just have fun!


Step Three:
After you fill in all the exposed areas, wait a bit for the watercolors to dry, then carefully peel up the scotch tape.

Tip! Save the peeled tape, and leave the border tape!


Step Four:
This can be where you masking tape painting journey ends…. if you love it, great! Ditched the peeled tape your saved,  peel off the border tape, and enjoy your new art.

Or you can push your painting further! If you saved your peeled tape, reuse it and repeat step one, feel free to add some more tape to create new shapes and sections.


Step Five:
Repeat steps two and three. Don’t worry if there is a shape or paint already there, painting over it will produce some cool effects – so experiment and see! You can repeat  step five as many times as you like to build up the layers, and fill the space of your paper.

I opted to stop after one repeat,  then I removed all the tape. Again, this could be the end or your masking tape painting journey. Or… you can move onto Step six!

Step Six:
This is for all the doodlers out there who wanted to add a little personalized touch to their project. In areas of white (or select certain shapes, or areas of color,) go ahead and doodle in their until they’re full. Explore linework, texture, shapes, add, change or create a new frame, whatever you feel like, until your feel your work is finished.


Have fun and enjoy!



Develop Your Sketchbook – Coming Soon, Monday March 30th!

Greetings MMA community members! Have you always dreamed of enrolling in Boriana Kantcheva‘s ‘Develop Your Sketchbook’ class? Well now here is your chance to jump on in.

We’ll be posting prompts from one of Boriana’s classes on Monday (3/30)!


You can use whatever art materials you have around your house, or you can try and order materials for our post on Monday (3/30). But no pressure – once the post is live you can always come back to visit and create!