A recent article in the local paper helped us Sandpointers be more appreciative of some ethereal public art that appears every year as Christmas approaches and disappears as the days begin to lengthen again thereafter. We can perhaps be forgiven for having taken it for granted, as it’s been a hallmark of our winter downtown for a decade.
Every Christmas season, wintry paintings appear on the storefront windows of many businesses in the blocks at the heart of town. Every window is different, but they’re all variations on the same theme. Nothing overtly Christmas-y, like Santa or elves or Jesus, they’re more stylized—snowflakes, stars, swirls, and branch-like things that look like sheaves of wheat with snow on them, along with the occasional tree. The palette is simple and unified: they’re all white.
Their consistency is reassuring. They bring a stylistic harmony to the varied buildings, and they appear yearly without fail—an aspect of Christmas like skiing and skating and two weeks off of school that we can count on.
The artist, according to the Bee, is local Maria Larson, who works in oils and watercolors on other media the rest of the year. She was asked by a business owner to do one window when she moved here ten years ago, and the process snowballed from there. She doesn’t plan ahead; she just paints what seems good when she arrives at any given window, although when she does adjacent storefronts, she tries to make them work as a cohesive whole.
We don’t always have snow downtown for Christmas. Sometimes we have rain, sometimes we have ice from leftover snow, sometimes fresh wet snow falls and converts itself immediately into ankle deep slush, and sometimes we have plowed-up gravel-covered dirty frozen yuck.
Given this inconsistency in the aesthetic decoration provided for the holiday by Mother Nature, it’s nice to know that we can rely on Maria, whose paintings provide a reliably appealing backdrop for whatever else arrives.