Last year, an estimated 150 million Americans carved a pumpkin, but it’s safe to say few of them approached the sculpting of winter squash with the enthusiasm and artistry of Michael Versandi. This year he’s already carved three, and he’s just getting warmed up.
Versandi, a graphic designer for northforker and Times Media Group, has an outside-the-box interest that is squarely inside the pumpkin patch. Every Halloween, he creates a series of whimsical and intricately-carved jack-o-lanterns; lights them, takes pictures and then watches them gradually disintegrate.
Often, his subjects are drawn from movies and popular culture like the images of characters from Goonies, or a jaw-dropping likeness of Alfred Hitchcock.
“I let the pumpkin dictate the design. I’ll pick up a pumpkin, give it a once over, decide to take it home, and then I let it decide what is going to happen,” he said of his process. Once Versandi has come to an understanding with the pumpkin, he works from memory, or free-hand to carve the image. He’ll refer to a photograph if he’s reproducing a familiar face.
Pumpkin is an unforgiving medium for the artist.
“Carving pumpkins can be laborious, and any mistake is hard to cover up,” Versandi said. “As it disintegrates, I take pictures of that too, but no one seems to be interested. It’s like looking at pictures of a melted snowman.”
“My favorite thing about pumpkin carving is that it does not last; that there is the art of carving, and the art of letting it become nothing,” he said. “Especially here on the North Fork, fall shows up and suddenly it’s gone. It disappears and then we are into the winter season. It’s an exact metaphor for the art itself.”