Being from Salem, Herron School of Art and Design senior David King has Halloween flowing through his veins.
Oh — that’s Salem, Indiana. Not Salem, Massachusetts.
“Yeah, we have a lot more cows than witches,” the sculpture major quipped.
Still, King joined about a dozen of his fellow students for a quick lunch-hour break between intermediate and advanced sculpture classes to carve pumpkins outside of the Eskenazi Fine Arts Center, which houses much of Herron’s sculpture and ceramics programs. King utilized tools usually saved for clay busts to transform his gourd into a ghoulish visage.
Inspired by the imagery of Villafane Studios and other monstrous mugs, King has been trying his hand at striking, creepy pumpkin carving. The techniques used are similar to other reductive sculpting techniques, which are challenging in any medium.
And of course, every pumpkin is different. During this carving, King found the walls of his pumpkin were about two inches thick near the stem, but they thinned out down the gourd.
“I had to bail on the nose early on,” explained King, noting the skull-like indented schnoz on his creation. “It was just so soft.”
All of the pumpkin guts were saved to feed student Shelby Lahne’s goats, Peanut and Crackerjack. The seeds were saved for later roasting.
Greg Hull, Valerie Eickmeier Professor in Sculpture and fine arts department chair at Herron, said he encourages his students to participate in activities outside of class. Some helped out during the current IUPUI 50th Anniversary Habitat for Humanity build. Most days it’s a pizza lunch together and the occasional movie night.
The sculpture students also share an affinity for Halloween, so pumpkin sculpting — er, carving — was a natural activity.
“It’s as much about community as anything else,” Hull said. “A big part of being in art school is what happens outside of the class structure anyway. Part of it is working together; part of it is sharing these tools. There are really different sets of skills here in terms of people spending a lot of their time carving and people who really don’t use carving as a primary part of their artmaking, but everyone’s carving today.”
The students sat at picnic tables, which were protected by plastic sheeting. Pumpkin chunks flew into the air as the students got to work using a variety of kitchen knives, X-Acto knives and sharp loop tools for peeling away the pumpkin rind. First-year art education major Hayley Davidson had a demented Pumpkin King design in mind before she started hacking away.
“What if he got real messed up? Like something happened to him, like madness?” queried Davidson, large knife in hand, before admitting she is “slightly” allergic to pumpkins. “I don’t do this often, but I live for Halloween.
“I’m just going to walk into my 3D design class and be like ‘Guys, this is my pumpkin.’ I’m proud.”
Seniors Lindsey Nevins and Samantha Wright volunteered for pumpkin duty to help relieve stress from intense studio classes.
“I didn’t need a concept,” said Nevins, holding her new cat-o-lantern. “I didn’t have to worry about it being good; I just kind of did it.”
Wright has been a hardcore Halloween fan since childhood. She said there was no way she was going to miss the opportunity to carve up a pumpkin. The Greenwood integrative studio practice major has taken multiple sculpture classes, but she said the years of art training are less important than having a clear mind when approaching a blank pumpkin.
“You just go for it. If you think too much about it, you’re probably not going to have something you enjoy,” said Wright, also a horror-movie buff. “It’s all about letting loose and having fun. This is my favorite holiday.”
King was one of the last students to finish. Always the harshest critic on himself, he hoped for a result that featured a more rounded, 3D look. But the ghoul on the pumpkin still impressed his classmates. Luckily, Halloween is still days away, and there are plenty more pumpkins to serve as canvas for the young artist.
“It’s a process that I really enjoy,” King said, “just trying to carve into it and create these weird, scary faces.”