From his basement studio under the sidewalk on Main Street, Dave LaFave conjures up great feasts of color, pattern, and texture in sometimes playful, often dramatic window displays for Selo/Shevel Gallery. Passersby are treated not just to art objects neatly arranged in the gallery windows but to epic scenes where the window dressing is as striking as the merchandise itself.

Trained as a visual artist, LaFave often develops a design first, and only then decides which pieces from the gallery fit the setting. For a seascape featuring more than a dozen handmade white squid-like creatures swimming upward against a deep blue background, he selected four asymmetrical white ceramic mugs and placed them at the bottom of the window to look like sea anemones. “Ask any other visual merchandiser and they will laugh at that approach, but it works for me,” LaFave says. “I can’t be the guy who says, ‘Oh, OK … we’re selling pink ceramic, so the background should be aubergine.'”

For one recent window, he enlarged the doodles he’d drawn on a bar napkin and mounted them in a giant, swirling black-and-white background behind a dazzling set of three glass bowls in primary red, yellow, and blue. For another, he hung white ice skates over a rod and mounted a light on the side of the window to cast their shadows on the far wall. Beyond the skates, on a set of white shelves, several pieces of bright red and orange glasswork shone like a winter sunset.

Only twice in six years have LaFave’s windows given rise to complaints–one featuring a wheel of toy guns spray-painted red, another a mobile created out of crutches that he’d found at the ReUse Center. In both cases LaFave was happy to return to his underground drawing board, where he dreamed up a new design.