Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Pumpkin Art

I've spent years studying and writing about holidays and I thought I knew a lot about the reasons people celebrate: to experience the timelessness of ritual, the warmth of community and the magic of aligning with the natural world . But as I walked around my neighborhood, the day after Halloween, I recognized a new and important ingredient: the opportunity to practice creativity.
Almost every porch had a pumpkin and every pumpkin was unique. The artists had obviously put a great deal of thought into their pumpkins and no one was afraid to display their artwork.
When I was young, my siblings and I had a contest every Halloween to see who could draw the best pumpkin face. Because we wanted to conserve the actual pumpkins, we drew our designs on little cut out paper pumpkins, then colored them in with crayons to consider the effect. The design which was most popular was then carved into the actual pumpkin (no doubt by my father wielding one of the kitchen knives). The paper pumpkins were taped to the wall above my brother's bed where they stayed for at least a month; every year the old pumpkins came out like Christmas ornaments and new ones were added. It was one of those peculiar family traditions which evolved out of a few factors (the eternal competition between me and my sister, my brother's birthday a few days before Halloween, and the orange paint on his bedroom wall).

Here are a few of my favorite pumpkins from my neighborhood. I like the simplicity of this presentation, the white pumpkins and they way their shape is echoed by the croquet balls.

Another unique approach or what to do with a big, lumpy, flattish pumpkin.

These pumpkins win my prize for most unique use of materials. Note the one where the face is carved in the top of the pumpkin using the stem for a nose.

This display highlights the importance of having your own pumpkin. Here's a triplex with three doors to three units and each person apparently carved their own pumpkin.


Cameron said...

I think what I love best about jack-o-lanterns is that they're still things that people make themselves. Most of us don't make our own valentines anymore, make popcorn or paper garlands to decorate our Christmas trees, or even make our own Halloween costumes. (I'm always pleased to see a homemade costume.) As a culture, we've outsourced all that to the corporations. But jack-o-lanterns are still ours. (These are the ones at our house.)

Waverly Fitzgerald said...


Thanks--you said so eloquently something I was trying to say. I'm all for going back to making valentines and Christmas decorations too, but meanwhile pumpkins remain a true folk art form. And yours are wonderful. I like that you show them both lit and unlit. The one with the fiery mouth is my favorite--a really genius use of the candle as part of the design. The Day of the Dead pumpkin is really exquisite. And the big pumpkin eating the little pumpkin: very clever!