Monster Pumpkins bring new light to old tradition

08:52, November 01, 2010      

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While millions of families across Canada set out this weekend to carve up Jack-o-Lanterns in time for Halloween, a group of artists was taking the holiday tradition to a whole new level at a monster pumpkins carving competition held in greater Vancouver.

As a traditional part of Halloween celebrations, Jack-o-Lanterns feature spooky faces carved into the flesh of pumpkins, and placed in front of houses to invite Trick-or-Treaters to come knock on the door and ask for candy.

Traditional Jack-o-Lanterns feature simple faces, with triangle holes cut out of the hollowed pumpkin for eyes, a nose, and a goofy or scary smile. A candle placed inside illuminates the spooky face.

However, the same pumpkins have turned out to be three-dimensional works with intricate patterns, totally different from the traditional style of Jack-o-Lanterns, as the artists brought new light to the old tradition with their artistic creation of monster pumpkins carving.

David Billings, organizer of the event, is a professional artist who specializes in the unique art of sand sculpting. But a few years ago when a fellow artist asked him to carve up a specialty pumpkin for a Halloween charity fundraiser, he quickly found an unfilled niche.

This year, Billings and a crew of 10 artists were hired to spend two weeks in Metrotown Mall in Burnaby, British Columbia, turning everyday pumpkins into works of art right before the eyes of mall customers.

"Most of us as children, we carve pumpkins for Halloween. Over the years we've done that. But what we've done, we're doing more three-dimensional work on pumpkins," says Billings.

Behind him, stacked on crunchy bails of hay, dozens of Jack-o-Lanterns grin out at mall-goers as they marvel the artists at work.

To offer more creativity to the carvers, these pumpkins are abnormally large, weighing anywhere from 100 to over 1,000 pounds. The tough orange skin peeled away, the artists carve the soft flesh of the pumpkins into intricately designed masterpieces.

One of the Jack-o-Lanterns takes the form of a mummy, his face wrapped in impossibly realistic soft orange bandages with one mangled eye protruding grotesquely from beneath.

Another bares a ferocious grin of angry, razor sharp teeth, sunken behind deep folds of gnarled, wrinkled skin.

Beside it, the flesh of a short, fat pumpkin has morphed into the slithery scales of a cobra rearing its head to sink its fangs into a passerby.

One, weighing a whopping 1,137 pounds, took artists seven days to be carved into an entire haunted house scene, complete with cobwebs and rusty gate.

For those used to simple triangle eyes and grins, the exhibition was an impressive surprise.

"I like the artistic way they let the light shine through. It seems like a real art to me, I think they're terrific," said one shopper.

Billings and his crew have worked around Canada and the world erecting sand sculptures for the last 20 years.

He has worked from Vancouver, as far as Dubai, and is currently working on projects that will take place in Thailand and the United Arab Emirates.

This year's monster exhibition was the first time he's done something with pumpkins on such a large scale, and hopes it will only increase business.

"After this event, I think people will see it and want more," he said. "It's a great attraction for people. People like to see things created."

And Billings may be carving his niche at just the right time.

With all the pressure to "go green" in all aspects of life, the art of pumpkin carving, like sand sculpting, uses all natural products. When the day is done, and the pumpkins begin rotting on the hay bails, they return right back to they came from-the ground.

"All of these pumpkins are going back to a farm for feed for animals, so they're being recycled," said billings. "That's the beautiful thing about this type of work as well as sand sculpture, it's all part of nature and it goes back to nature afterward."

David Dureault is a professional sculptor who works with wood, snow, sand, and many other materials when the Halloween season comes to a close. But he said the artistic take on the timeless Halloween tradition is a unique way of bringing people together for the holiday.

"It's fun, everybody is together and we're all sharing one experience of happiness even though we're off on our own tangents, we're still sharing one happy experience," he said.

"So, whether you're frightened or not, you should just share the joy."

Source: Xinhua


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