In one of Marie Hausauer's paintings, a cherub reaches gracefully through the puffy clouds of a heavenly sky for the hand of another cherub. At first glance, the image doesn't seem like an edgy statement on anything in particular. Sure, one cherub is white-skinned with pink, punk-rock hair, and the other cherub is dark-skinned, but their angelic faces and the pastel wash of colors give the scene a serene and impenetrable glow. Upon closer inspection, however, you'll notice the painting's title, "Post Googling Prussian Blue & April Gaede." It's a reference to white supremacist Gaede, who gained notoriety when she moved to the Flathead area in 2006 with her family, including twin daughters who were, at the time, in a neo-Nazi band called Prussian Blue.
In that light, it becomes clear Hausauer's art has a story to tell.
Hausauer, 21, lives in Whitefish where she was born and raised in an environment she considers privileged and lucky. But a recent Holocaust revisionist film presented by white supremacists at the nearby Kalispell Public Library reminded her that idyllic small towns can also be hot pockets for fanatics.
"It's so sheltered up here," Hausauer says. "I can walk down the street at night and not be scared. So when something that dramatic is going on—people totally comfortable with showing a movie saying that the Holocaust didn't happen—it all seems so bizarre and foreign."
Hausauer and her father and sister went to Kalispell to protest the film's screening. That night police arrested Gaede after she clashed with the protesters. Afterward, the event stuck in Hausauer's mind and she decided to tackle it in an unusual way.
"Usually I would paint something super angry about it and dark, but I kind of didn't want to give [the white supremacists] that much credit 'cause they're warped in the head," says Hausauer. "It makes them more of a threat if I spend that kind of time and energy looking at [Gaede] like she's some foul enemy. So making the painting all kind of cutesy undermines her in my mind."
Up until recently, Hausauer lived and painted in a renovated barn behind her parents' house. During that time she created "Haunted," which, like "Post Googling," is an engaging painting with a curious backstory. The image shows a somber woman with flowing hair and a cameo necklace, and the background is coated in bodice ripper novels from old Reader's Digests, giving it a mysterious and vintage flavor. Hausauer began painting it when she started hearing footsteps and whispers in the barn even though she was the only one there.
"You start talking about this kind of stuff and you start sounding like a crock," Hausauer laughs. "But it's a creepy feeling when you're somewhere and you realize that maybe you're not the only one there. There was no blood dripping out of the walls or anything. It wasn't an evil feeling, just a noticeable presence."
The painting itself isn't really a reflection or literal portrayal of being haunted. Hausauer says she painted it in order to process the creepy feeling she was experiencing.
"It's not a really complicated painting, intellectually," says Hausauer. "I was trying to figure out if I should be freaked out about ghosts in the barn, kind of hoping that painting would maybe appease it and it would leave me alone a little bit. It's such a pretentious, loaded word, but it's kind of a meditation."
Hausauer recently mo-ved into another residence in town—this one isn't haunted—and she's hoping to clear out a space in her garage for another studio. For now she's not interested in art school ("I think it might give me too many rules," she says), and, instead, she's hoping to collaborate with other artists and work on pieces for exhibits, like her upcoming The Random Musings of a Hermit, which opens this week at Walking Man Frame Shop & Gallery in Whitefish.
And, so far, she continues to find plenty of muses to choose from in her hometown. Her volunteer work at the local food bank inspired her recently to do a completely different piece—this one on glass—that's a tribute to some of the senior citizens she's gotten to know there. It's a colorful acrylic called "Creamed Corn (you guys rock)," a portrait of three older folks from the food bank. It's part of Hausauer's revelation she had about the way in which that particular demographic is treated.
"A lot of times we don't think of them as competent members of society," she says. "We talk to them a little slower like they're not going to understand, and if you disagree with what someone elderly says you let it go, because they're old. I think it's sad to stop expecting things out of people. Working there kind of contradicted my idea of how you treat older people. I think they rock."
Marie Hausauer shows her work at an exhibit titled, The Random Musings of a Hermit, beginning Thursday, July 1, at the Walking Man Frame Shop & Gallery in Whitefish. 6 PM. Free.