OBERLIN — Santa may be anticipating a white Christmas this year, but it’s unlikely he was thinking he’d be in for a wet one.
That’s just what Wellington artist Keith McGuckin had in mind for his department store Santa with his newest art installment, “The Narcoleptic Bedwetter.”
McGuckin is no stranger to the controversy that arises over his unusual holiday displays each year, and his latest Christmas display — positioned in the window of Swerve Bike Shop — might turn a few heads. The display features Santa Claus holding a little boy who falls asleep and wets his pants, and the art installment is complete with running water.
“I always get hung up on weird things, like narcolepsy, and I wanted to use it in an art piece,” McGuckin said. “Department store Santas have everything spilled on them, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this had happened before.”
Still, this year’s display is toned down from some of McGuckin’s previous works — most notably, the Nazi gingerbread display that was yanked from a storefront after complaints from area residents.
The display was featured on “The Colbert Report” TV show and critics of the piece accused McGuckin of being a white supremacist.
McGuckin, who denied the allegation, said he doesn’t create his displays for shock value. He is hoping that people stop to look, however.
“I only toned it down because no one would let me put them anywhere,” he said. “I don’t want to be painted as a Howard Stern-type person … I’m actually offended when people say I’m doing this for shock value.”
One person who appreciates McGuckin’s artistry is Chris Heinebrodt, who has let the artist set up his displays at his store, Simply Elegant Candle and Gifts on South Main Street.
For three years, Heinebrodt has featured several of McGuckin’s displays, when they are within reason.
“We need to know what it is ahead of time,” he said, adding that the Narcoleptic Bedwetter was “a little too much” for the shop. “I don’t think we can handle the backlash of Nazi gingerbread.”
Heinebrodt said the reactions from people who stopped in to view the artwork were mostly positive, but there is always someone who is upset by a piece.
He said McGuckin’s display of Santa with an iron lung and another without legs had the most critics.
“People get offended when you mess with Santa,” he said, shrugging.
McGuckin said this year’s display was unique in that he had help from artist Amanda Heinebrodt, Chris Heinebrodt’s wife and co-owner of Simply Elegant Candle and Gifts.
The two set up the Narcoleptic Bedwetter display at Swerve Bike Shop and, although they had permission from the owner, he didn’t know what the display would be.
“He said, ‘Surprise me,’ and no one has ever said that since the Nazi gingerbread display,” McGuckin said, laughing.
Chris Robinson, owner of Swerve Bike Shop, said he was a little nervous giving McGuckin full rein, but he didn’t want to stifle his creativity as an artist. He said he was pleasantly surprised by the results.
“I love it. I think it’s great,” he said. “It’s nice to walk by and see something that adds to the city’s Christmas-type destination, and I think he adds to it.”
McGuckin, who described himself as “a little odd,” said his twisted sense of humor comes through in his artwork, and he hopes to continue the displays for many holidays to come.
“I do like to make people stop for a minute,” he said.