Grand Forks Herald
by Lance Nixon
December 25, 1988
BROCKET, ND - Any believeing child will tell you Santa Claus stops regularly in Brocket, ND, on his annual Chirstmas run.
But lately he's taken up a yearround residence there - in the Prairie Gallery, just outside of town.
That's where Ralph and Gen Miller display their collection of Santa paintings done by Devils Lake artist Anne-Marit Bergstrom.
The Millers, who say their art collection is a hobby that just got out of hand, purchased the Santa collection for the same reason they bought everything else - they liked it.
Here are Santa and his reindeer, Santa sitting down to pick out a few Christmas carols on the piano, Santa with a towel wrapped around him, waiting for Mrs. Claus to warm his bath. There are nine paintings in all, and Bergstrom is commissioned to paint three more.
"You don't have to be a child to like them. Everyone does," Gen Miller said. "They draw you to them."
Gen Miller first saw the Santa paintings when she stopped in a Devils Lake store where a few of them happened to be on display.
"I saw them and I wanted them and that's it. That's the way we buy," she said. "I'm really surpirsed she sold them to me, because she didn't want to at first."
Bergstrom says she originally thought of doing the Santa paintings as a series to make into her family's annual Chirstmas cards, starting in 1982. Thats why the Millers had to do some talking to convince her to part with them.
Almost as an afterthough, Bergstrom used the paintings to illustrate her own Christmas tale, "A Santa Saga," which she published in 1984.
Bergstrom hosts a weekly radio address each week on radio station KDLR called "Art Sketches and Music Notes." She says the idea for the Christmas tale - a rundown on what Santa does during the 12 days of Christmas - came after Santa Claus showed up as a guest during one radio address.
The book has been translated into Japanese.
Bergstrom's Christmas story contains some revelations about Santa Claus that are not widely known. Lutefisk and lefse are among his favorite foods, for instance, and Santa was outraged once at a plan to put in a toll-free hot line to the North Pole, eliminating the need for Christmas letters.
Santa also confided to Bergstrom in one radio interview that his lead reindeer Rudolph became rather "uppity" after he became famous for his television exploits one foggy Christmas.
But the Santa paintings are what set the book apart. The Millers say Bergstrom paints in a style much like folk art, and seems to find a common denominator in everyone, whether they know a great deal about art or nothing at all.
Although the Santa paintings may strike people as just the way Santa ought to look, Bergstrom may be relying on more than simply her imagination.
"One thing I notice about Anne-Marit's work is that a lot of her paintings look like her family." Ralph Miller said. "I think her Santa looks a lot like her husband."
Bergstrom concedes that's possible, but she said it isn't deliberate.
"It's a funny thing," she said. "Even when I don't mean to be painting them, the people I love sneak in. I guess it's just because I'm thinking about them."