Several years ago, some friends and I went to Pumpkinpalooza in Lyons, NY. This was the occasion upon which I made the purchase of a Victorian tooth charm, a wise act for which I often congratulate myself, but which is not the subject of this post. The subject of this post is carved pumpkins.
Pumpkinpalooza always involves a display of pumpkins on the steps of the town hall or town court or something important with big columns. I don't know what it was; I was distracted by the magnificence of the pumpkins.
You know how trolls turn to stone when light falls on them? Well, carved pumpkins always seem like that to me: not posed like stone sculptures, but caught mid-grin, mid-cackle, mid-snarl, mid-chomp. They're like candid shots, not under the control of the artist. Each pumpkin seems like an independent living thing. There's an entire past and personality in every face.
This one is a runt, mocked all its life, disgruntled, plotting revenge.
This big round cannibal isn't so much taking revenge as simply creating carnage, for its evil is motiveless, like that of Iago.
This one's face doesn't go all the way through, and since a face is all a jack-o'-lantern is, it treads on the very knife-edge of existence. It almost doesn't exist, and it is surprised and pleased that it does.
Pumpkins have this peculiar quality because they cannot be mass-produced. Their faces are as individual as human faces. No matter how well or badly carved, they are expressive, just as any look on any face, even a blank look, is expressing something.
The most expressive pumpkin at Lyons was this masterpiece of ineptitude.
But the expression is hard to read, I'll be honest. Possible interpretations:
(a) It has been woken against its will.
(b) It regrets eating that ghost chili.
(c) It has shaved its beard but left a thin little mustache like a caricature of a Frenchman, and has just stepped back from the mirror to see how it looks, and is dismayed.
(d) It has just been punched in one eye quite without provocation.
(e) The idea is just dawning on it that its uncle may have killed its father in order to marry its mother.
The possibilities are endless. It's my most favorite pumpkin carving of all time.