Hattie Bowen, Exit Gallery Oct. 15

Hattie Bowen appears shy, well-dressed and polite — but after seeing her paintings of hard lines and muted colors, that impression seems misleading.

Bowen’s work evokes societal problems by combining text and imagery in creative ways. She mainly uses acrylic and oil paint in a style at the intersection of surrealism and modernism, slightly unsettling in tone. Bowen attended Bigfork High School and University of Montana — Western before transferring to MSU. She is a senior studying studio art, and plans to graduate this winter. Her work will be on display in the SUB’s Exit Gallery from Oct. 15-26.

Exponent: Why do you make art?

Bowen: Part of it is selfish; I make things I want to see. I have an idea, and I want it to exist in the world. It sounds weird, but that’s part of the reason. The other part is, I think art doesn’t get enough credit as something that can create discourse. I want to make art that can bring people to the point of talking about things, and think about something they wouldn’t have thought of before.

E: Is there a narrative running through your work?

B: The pieces in the [Exit Gallery] show are part of a more fragmented narrative. It’s about my experiences and the nature of subculture. I’m working on a [more cohesive] narrative for my senior thesis.

E: Can you expand on “the nature of subculture?”

B: It has to do with different cultural realities, and the tensions that exist there. There’s mass culture and the perceived others — minorities, weirdos, outcasts, etc.

E: What experiences did that develop from?

B: I don’t know about a specific event. I guess growing up in small-town Montana and being a gay person, that’s the basis of my experience with it. It’s the general feeling that you get of being different from other people, and a lot of people can relate to that in different ways. I don’t want it to be specific to myself, but it comes from my experience. Other people can look at it and think about it in terms of themselves.

E: What are your ideas for your senior thesis?

B: It’s a science-fiction thing, where a machine called the Functioner is made by a “Big Brother” entity. Everybody has to be processed by the machine, which makes them more obedient and apathetic. Certain people can’t be processed by the machine, so it spits them out and malfunctions. Those people, called Strangers, become outcasts. I haven’t worked through the plot, but that’s the basis.