Artist interview with Hildos (a Look inside the studio)
Article by Caroline Haller
Hildos is a Lebanese-Armenian artist whose artistic career led her from her birthplace of Beirut to New York City. Hildos is talented and diverse among her pursuits. She has worked as an art teacher, graphic designer, illustrator and window designer. In 2012, she completed a painting summer residency at the School of Visual Arts, New York. She has a MA in marketing and communications, dabbles in theatre, and presented her ideas at a TEDxLAU TED talk event in September 2013. You can watch that here.
She created a comic Hildos in the City to comment on her experience as an immigrant and artist in New York City.
Hildos’s paintings, like Inside Out (Figure 1) feature themes regarding emancipation, body image, and “seeing the beauty in imperfection.” Through her images of the female body, Hildos attempts to find security and shelter within one’s own body, understanding that the body can be a refuge, but that it is often an imperfect one.
Figure 1. Inside Out, 2021, Mixed Media on Canvas, 24 x 36 in
Read on to find out more about Hildos and her practice.
Can you share a little about your artistic journey? How did you start out in art, what are you currently working on, and what are some future plans or themes for your works?
I started my art journey at a very young age around 7. My Dad bought me a box of markers that had 100 colors! Best gift ever! I had art classes every Saturday at the Lebanese American University Kids art program for 4 years in a raw and loved every minute of it. I even remember the last project working on a big Medusa structure made of wires and papier-mâché and the hair was supposed to be snake like. Unfortunately, a war started back then, and we never finished the project. But until I went to college, I expressed art through different forms such as clothing and interior decoration. Then I went to the same University where it all started on Saturdays; studied Fine Arts and worked in the Graphic Design and Illustration field for around 16 years. Up till then my art revolved around social issues especially equality, diversity and war. But in 2012, when I decided to do Art full time; I was in a Residency at the School of Visual Arts, and I started a new theme and decided to use my art to share my struggles, heal myself of body image issues and to change the view of ourselves that the media and plastic surgery industry imposed on us. I drew myself from memory and I still do that, just to work on how I unconsciously see myself. I created a collection titled EMANCIPATION 2012 which also included some erotica, a taboo subject and some funny stuff. The year after I gave a TEDtalk, also at the University where it all started and a couple of months later embarked on my NYC journey. In NYC, I created a collection NEW YORK WITH IN and the theme was how I embraced and adapted to moving to NYC; of course, positive body image was there. Next, I started a series #immigrantinthecity which is still work in progress, it’s the after-honeymoon phase in NYC and about what an immigrant goes through living here; the funny, the bad, the lonely, the struggle, the non-inclusion, the healing and the Kintsugi. I am also working on photography in parallel. Mainly Street photography and Food photography. Food photography is for my passion for cooking and styling food but also making peace with my relationship with food.
On another note, I created a comic strip Hildos in the City since 2002 and it reflects on NYC experience but since it’s a comic strip its funnier.
Another project that in the process is working as a teaching artist with children who suffered from war conflict. I have been there and it’s traumatic; and I believe that art can is an amazing tool that can help heal.
Who would you say have been your mentors in life: artistic or otherwise?
My mentor is Milton Glaser, I always loved his style but mainly I was impressed by his journey and his pioneering ideas. I was fortunate enough, in 2011, to be selected to participate in the Summer Course and it was a changing experience!
I believe also that mentors can be life experiences. So definitely NYC, was and still is a mentor that teaches you to persist.
What parts of your current lifestyle are most inspiring to you and help fuel your creation?
I am a teaching artist and also work with kids, I find it very inspiring because kids work with no inhibitions or expectations, they are just enjoying the process and I try to incorporate that into my process too.
I also embody creativity in my everyday life. Whether through my living space (which I constantly redecorate) or clothing, make up even my food. Creativity became part of my identity.
On another note, I love music and dancing, I used to dance salsa with a ladies styling team. Dancing and music are part of my process when am painting. They help me lose my inhibitions and go with the flow.
Figure 2. Chandelle, 2012, Mixed Media on Paper, 145 x 110 cm.
What themes are most present in your art?
Mainly the themes are positive body image, immigrants, and social issues, but I try to share my message through metaphors and funny experiences. For example, in my painting Chandelle (Figure 2) I am sharing my message of struggles that I went through on daily basis through a yoga pose that I used to struggle to do. I always say we only live once, so let’s do it with fun!
What can you share about your studio or creation spaces and what materials and production processes do you use in the creation and display of your art?
I am lucky enough to have a studio space in my apartment. Even that space, I try to make it creative and inspiring. As I mentioned, I draw myself from memory. To be able to do that I exercise my memory by going to figure drawing sessions just so my hand/brain gets the hang of it. So, I have a lot if sketches, some of me and some of models all hanging on the walls and a mirror just for a quick look. I learned that trick from one of my teachers during my Residency at the School of Visual Arts.
I use a mix range of materials whether type of paper, or coloring tools so there are a lot of those laying around. But since I am multidisciplinary artist, I have other different material too like photography material, hand drawing material and digital material for illustration. I like to use soft pastel for the drawing body just because its smooth and the effect of mixing different colors is amazing! Also, a lot if acrylics, different types of pastels, magazines, charcoal, pencils, ink, watercolor, colored pencils, and found objects all are there! But for some reason I can’t work in a space that is not neat, unlike most artists. Not my artworks though, I start with an idea and then I go with the flow, so it gets messy and clumsy especially that I put music on and dance when I am painting.
But mainly what I do is VALUE the UNDERVALUED. That’s why I used butcher paper for my NEW YORK WITHIN ME collection instead of canvas or any regular paper.
How do you think your education in Marketing and Communications has helped you with your artistic production?
Marketing and Communications have helped in different ways not only in my artistic production but also in my teaching practice. I learned personal branding and to work on my self-image by focusing on authenticity and aspiration, to make me relatable to people when I share my stories or my artwork.
Also, it helped me in navigating Social Media in how and what channels to communicate my message and get more exposure. It’s always a work in progress as Social Media and algorithms always change. Communicating the right message at the right time and how to communicate it, what words or images to be more impactful. Networking, and having the 30 second pitch ready. Differentiation and how to stand out from the crowd. These were all the materials that I learned through Marketing and Communications
On another note, it helped me in the administrative part and how to create inventory and keep track of where all my artworks have been exhibited or published, who to and when they were sold, receipts, invoices, certificate of authenticity… Being an artist involves the same work as a business owner.
Finding beauty in imperfection is a little bit of a motto for you, wouldn’t you say? How do you find and appreciate the beauty in imperfection in your life and art? Is freedom in finding peace with your body?
Yes, finding beauty in imperfection is my motto. We are all bombarded on daily basis with media messages, influencers, tv…all rubbish and fake. Fortunately, there is more awareness right now and a lot of brands are more inclusive to all shapes, color and sizes. A lot of celebrities and models are helping to change these views, but some started unfortunately to cave to the pressure.
I believe everything that is different and with imperfection is special because it’s not a clone it’s actually one if a kind. I embrace the flaws instead of rejecting them. By seeing the beauty in my flaws and others I found peace and harmony. I just learned a couple of years is not a new concept it’s an old traditional concept in Japan called Wabi-Sabi which is a philosophy of ultimate love of ourselves and others despite our flaws.
It’s freeing ourselves from self-doubt and self-hate and rejection, not for ourselves only but for others. Stop wasting time our time on frivolous issues.
To finish, what element (water, earth, air, fire) do you most identify with and why?
I am an earth sign, but I need to be always nourished with water.