Window Dressing

Linda Edwards discusses her 200 windows at Blueberry Hill

In the kind of coincidence not uncommon to Blueberry Hill, as Linda begins a tour of her upstairs studio, there's Tony himself, with his tattoos, leather vest and squarely built physique, the kind perfectly designed for a low-riding motorbike. "Linda can talk anybody into anything," he says of his one-night quilting performance. "It's good you're writing about her. She really deserves the recognition." Linda introduces some of the servers who have participated in the window's living dioramas. Blueberry Hill, more than a restaurant, is Linda's central casting.

Upstairs, Linda shows off her collection of props and stage scenery: bolts of fabric, costumes, mannequins, a blue pheasant, a vanity, a basket of giant Easter eggs. Her enthusiasm for all of this weird stuff, and all the weird stuff's possibilities, turns her into a buoyant teenager. In one room is a case of small champagne bottles. "This is my new project," she says, pulling out an empty bottle. She's in the process of draining these of their contents so they'll fit into an as-yet-undesigned window: "I first liked pouring in a glass, but lately I just drink right out of the bottle." She mimes the act of a champagne lady, grinning giddily.

When Linda gets silly, it's not surprising to discover that the artistic evolution of the window began with her early artistic experience. Her parents gave free rein to her creativity, she says: "This is what I did as a kid. I really haven't progressed."

Linda may feel she has suspended her childhood, but her window displays grow more refined, more subtle, more provocative. The new "Sisters of Our Lady of Chantilly" presents, as a framed caption explains, "Four nuns from a local Chantillion Abbey, whose mission is to spread devotion through teaching the magic of makeup, will offer their services to the faithful and the merely curious."

The scene is the blue and white of Fatima, except the Our Lady in the corner is looking fabulous: porcelain-white with Chanel-red lipstick and long eyelashes. Votive candles of blue and white are everywhere. A divan embroidered in two tones of blue is centered in the scene, ready for novitiates. Makeup kits abound -- the square silver cases, the compacts and eyeliners and pencils and brushes and lipstick gleam efficiently, unused, virginal. Within each case is a brief motto, printed on a blue card, like those above the thresholds of Catholic-school doors: "Is it you, or is it makeup? Only the Lord knows for sure"; "Putting a face on a new religion"; "Gorgeousness is next to Godliness"; and the poignant theological question "What would Jesus wear?"

As Joe gives the Loop its commercial restoration, Linda delivers the spiritual makeover.

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