Words by Jenny Lynn Davis | Images by Justin Hunter
Mary Catherine Sellers is not your typical artist. She doesn’t wield a paintbrush on canvas, and her gallery isn’t a fancy studio. Instead, Mary Catherine transforms local businesses’ windows into vibrant, eye-catching displays that captivate the community.
“It was probably about 5 or 6 years ago. There was a painter who did window displays for local businesses; the Christmas season was coming up, and no one could get in touch with him, so a friend of mine who was also a local business owner contacted me and asked if I would paint her windows for Christmas,” she recalls. “I painted a scene from The Grinch, and while I was out there painting, so many people stopped and asked me to do theirs as well, and that’s how it took off!”
Her artistry stems from a lifelong love for drawing and painting. When asked about her creative process, she shares, “I normally ask the business owner what aesthetic or vibe they’re going for, and once I have that in mind, I brainstorm options and look for inspiration, which I often find in nontraditional places like clothing or pop culture, then I collect inspiration photos and work with the owners to pick out what they want. Then, I show up on the scheduled day and get to work!”
Mary Catherine’s technique doesn’t involve super meticulous planning. Instead, she can get to work relatively quickly after she and the business owners decide on a concept.
“I’ve always been able to visualize things, so I take a quick look at the area, map the scene out in my mind, and get to painting! I hand draw everything out in white paint to begin with to get the spacing down, then once I’m satisfied with it, I add the color and outline,” she says.
Despite starting in Walker County, her reputation has spread beyond its borders. She notes, “I started in Walker County, and that’s where much of my business comes from, but I’ve started getting jobs and requests outside of the county, which is exciting!”
For Mary Catherine, art is more than a skill; it’s a heartfelt endeavor. So, while she has fun with the work, it sometimes presents challenges.
“To me, with art in general, I have to be in a really good headspace and heart space to produce art. I was putting up Christmas art in Jasper in 2020 when my mom got sick with COVID, and I sadly lost her in January 2021,” she says. “That was hard. I didn’t paint at all in 2021. My parents were always super supportive of art and allowing me to be creative, so being without both of them really impacted my headspace and heart space.”
However, a turning point arrived in 2022. “My friend Crystal Odom, who owns Paper Places Bookshop in downtown Jasper, messaged me and asked me to put a fall scene on their window. I felt okay about it, so I went to paint. I was painting, and the Methodist Church bells started playing ‘It is Well with My Soul,’ and I took that as a sign. It was okay to do this again even though Mom wasn’t physically here to support me. I ended up painting for the remainder of that year, and it hasn’t stopped since!”
Mary Catherine finds beauty in the transient nature of her art. “I like that window art is temporary. I feel like it’s beautiful for its designated time, and if it were permanent, it would lose its essence. It creates another blank canvas, and I get to start over again!”
For Mary Catherine, window art is more than just a display; it represents a moment of beauty and creativity that adds a unique touch to the community. As she continues to paint and bring joy to those who encounter her work, Mary Catherine Sellers proves that art can heal, inspire, and leave an indelible mark on the world, one window at a time. WL