A quick glance at Sin is Pretty’s display window on South Coast Highway in Laguna Beach reveals a mannequin in a blue vintage dress.
On closer inspection, a passerby will notice that the mannequin is crying tears of faux blood — actually red paint — and that the color is continued on her outstretched palms.
Shop owner Denise Levesque said the mannequin is part of the vintage store’s Christmastime display.
Bloody tears and Christmas?
The Laguna Beach native said the mannequin represents the feminine side of the holiday. It’s an interpretation of Our Lady of Guadalupe, an artistic image of the Virgin Mary in Mexico City.
“We got to celebrate Mary,” she said. “She’s the mother of Jesus, and that’s what Christmas is about, kind of.”
The blood shows Mary’s sorrow for her son, and the tears symbolize her rejoicing, Levesque said.
The bloody palms represent stigmata, marks on the body that replicate the wounds Jesus suffered at the crucifixion.
The theme goes along with Levesque’s shop. She said her store “is just like a basic vintage shop but ... with the oddities.”
Those oddities include a 150-year-old mounted hyena from Belgium and a peacock she mounted herself.
Levesque said last year’s display was the “naughty window,” complete with a mannequin brandishing a whip. The window’s main feature was a brick chimney topped with a human skull and leather gloves to make it look as though Santa Claus was climbing out.
“I like to put something that tickles the sense a little bit,” Levesque said. “In the conventional beach town, I think we need that.”
The “bleeding” mannequin has drawn displeasure as well as support from neighboring businesses.
“What’s going on with the display stuff is wrong — it’s Christmastime,” said Lauren Seckler, owner of the neighboring Lauren’s Boutique and Gallery.
Seckler said she does not view the mannequin as art, calling the image “negative energy.”
Kym Sawtelle, who assists the owner of Josephine’s Spa, across the street from Sin Is Pretty, said Laguna is an “artist community.”
“I think that people should be really tolerant of any kind of creative expression in a town that is known for artists’ expression,” she said.
Levesque said she has not received any negative feedback and plans to continue adding to the display with “wacky, vintage toys” and others that are “creepy.”