October 25, 2014

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‘Gingerbread Nazi’ artist is back — this time with homicidal snow woman and criminal elf


Click here to see some of Keith McGuckin’s past work, including the “Gingerbread Nazis.”

OBERLIN – It`s that time of year again.

The snow has begun to fall, holiday music is flooding the airwaves and murderous snowmen and drug smuggling elves are popping up in window displays around Oberlin.

BRUCE BISHOP / CHRONICLE
Artist Keith McGuckin puts a criminal elf in a police lineup at Oberlin`s Ben Franklin store.

Yep, local artist Keith McGuckin has returned.

Nearly a year after his infamous display featuring Nazi gingerbread men put him on the map, the self-described stickler for details swears he`s only in it for the laughs.

“I don`t do things to make people mad,” he said. “I like to entertain people. I take it personal when they don`t laugh.”

McGuckin`s past displays have featured the likes of suicidal snowmen and a crystal meth Christmas fashioned after the 1950s holiday window displays in downtown Cleveland.

This year`s displays flow along the same quirky vein.

“Tis the Season for Murder” stands in the lobby of the Oberlin Public Library, and is based on a 1950s-esque film noir that portrays a heavily lipsticked snow woman with a penchant for turning her three snowman husbands into snow cones.

His second exhibit this year, “Taser Gun Shuffle,” will be on display for a week in downtown Oberlin`s Ben Franklin store and tells the story of a drug-smuggling elf that gets hit with a Taser by police when they mistake his candy cane for a switchblade.

Krista Long, owner of Ben Franklin, said while she hoped the display didn`t offend any of her customers, McGuckin`s unique art was something she had no problem lending some space to.

“He`s obviously seeing something different,” Long said. “I`m not saying I agree or disagree, but I think it`s refreshing to see a different point of view.”

McGuckin has learned to hang on to whatever compliments he receives along the way, considering not everyone likes what he puts together.

He was featured in news stories around the world last year when his Nazi gingerbread men display was kicked out of stores in Oberlin and its secondary site, Wellington.

He said he`s learned what subjects to tackle, and which ones to leave alone.

“I try to stay away from religion and NASCAR,” McGuckin said. “I don`t need any good old boys following me home.”

Outside Ben Franklin`s, some of the first passers-by stopped to take notice of “Rusty,” the drug-smuggling elf.

While 21-year-old Oberlin College student Lee Hull said she appreciated the display for taking a stand against the commercialism of the holiday season, her friend and fellow student 19-year-old Sarah Lipman said she thought it fell outside her own realm of sensibility.

“I think it`s a little absurd to mention Taser guns and police chases along with something so innocent,” she said. “I just wish it was a happy elf.”

Contact Stephen Szucs at 336-4016 or sszucs@chroniclet.com.