Archived Story

Artistic design shows in decoration

Published 9:09am Sunday, December 15, 2013

Column: Art Is…, by Bev Jackson Cotter

Several years ago, my young family drove south to spend a few days in Texas after Christmas. I had never been out of Minnesota during the holidays, and to my eyes the plastic wreaths on doorways and dusty evergreen boughs on street lights all seemed out of place like summer had come and people forgot to put away the Christmas decorations. Even though I knew it was still the season to be jolly, it was as if my seasonal clock was screwed up.

Recently, Michael and I flew to Hawaii for a few days, and here again, I had a hard time convincing myself that Christmas was just around the corner. The sandy beaches, shorts and T-shirts, veranda restaurants and swimming pools made the holidays seem months away. Then I saw the perfect Hawaiian Christmas tree. It was decorated with elegant silk flowers and matching ornaments in oranges and golds. It was beautiful. Christmas came back in a rush.

Our home is decorated with memories, collected over the years from children’s projects, gifts from friends, souvenirs from travel, all combined with lots of evergreen boughs and plaid ribbon. Colors? Mostly red and white — Christmas celebrated in snowy Minnesota.

So how does art and creativity fit in to the season?

Every time I look at holiday decorations, I see artistic designs. It doesn’t matter what ethnic background the designer comes from, what colors or items are used, whether they are new or family favorites or whether the image is large or small. I see someone has used their time and talent to making the world a more artistic place.

Have you ever closely examined the stained-glass windows in churches? You’ll find the Christmas story over and over in detail and in abstract. It really makes no difference just how the reason for the season is portrayed. Each person viewing the art finds his or her own significance.

I’ve come to realize Christmas is as different as people, that the old Courier and Ives traditions are unique in every household, in every clime. Someone’s tree is decorated in glorious purple shades and someone else’s is a silver creation. One person’s yard is filled with blown up figures and another has a simple wreath on the door. One store display is decorated with poinsettias, another with candy canes. One church places a life size Nativity in its yard, another uses miniature figures, both settings meaningful and beautiful.

Christmas creativity is also found in words. Every carol, every story and every song reminds us of the holiday through the eyes and heart of the writer. I love the story “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. He paints pictures with words and you can see them clearly.

Imagine 19th century, London.

“Once upon a time — of all the good days in the year, on Christmas Eve — old Scrooge sat busy in his counting-house. It was cold, bleak, biting weather: foggy withal: and he could hear the people in the court outside go wheezing up and down, beating their hands upon their breasts, and stamping their feet upon the pavement-stones to warm them. The city clocks had only just gone three, but it was quite dark already: it had not been light all day: and candles were flaring in the windows of the neighboring offices, like ruddy smears upon the palpable brown air. The fog came pouring in at every chink and key hold, and was so dense without, that although the court was of the narrowest, the houses opposite were mere phantoms. To see the dingy cloud come drooping down, obscuring everything, one might have thought that nature lived hard by, and was brewing on a large scale …” — hardly the Christmas setting we dream of.

No matter how you spend your Christmas, whether the day is foggy or bright, whether your home is decorated or not, whether you read “A Christmas Carol,” The story of the Nativity in the Book of Luke, or “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” whether you sing carols or listen to them, whether you enjoy a roasted turkey or a frozen pizza, no matter your choice, the holiday is yours, and the folks at the Albert Lea Art Center wish you a warm and creative Merry Christmas!


Bev Jackson Cotter is a member of the Albert Lea Art Center, 224 S. Broadway, where the Peterson/Froiland exhibits will be on display through Dec. 27. The Festival of Trees is being held through Dec. 29 at the 125-year-old Petran House, 226 W. Fountain St.