Ray Villafane, Pumpkin Carver
For me, carving a pumpkin means cutting a few triangle eyes and a crooked smile into a pumpkin on Halloween, but for Ray Villafane this means a whole lot more. Pumpkin carving has become a year-round profession for the New York native, which may seem crazy to some, like me. Once I saw Villafane’s work, I began to realize what a one-of-a-kind artist he is.
Though Villafane was always interested and talented in the art department, he didn’t start out carving pumpkins. After graduating from the School of Visual arts in New York City, he began teaching art to grades K-12. For Villafane, the carving began when a student brought in a pumpkin for him to carve in class.
“I carved it and the kids liked it. They just kept bringing them in,” Villafane told me. “It started a snowball effect from there.”
And from there Villafane quit his teaching job and began sculpting professionally for companies such as Warner Brothers and Marvel. He eventually made his way back to pumpkins and now devotes his career to his own pumpkin carving business. He spends his autumns carving pumpkins for big events, such as The Martha Stewart Show, Heidi Klum’s Halloween Party and many other events around the world.
“I enjoy this so much I want others to enjoy it too,” Villafane admitted.
There’s no doubt that Villafane has an amazing skill. When I visited his exhibit in the Agriculture/Horticulture Building, the pumpkins jumped out at me, which is exactly what he aims for.
“I like the carvings to feel like they are alive,” said Villafane. “When you look at one of my carvings I want you to feel like it’s looking back at you.”
You can see Villafane carve his life-like “Pumpkin Headz” exhibit for yourself through Sunday, August 10 in the Agriculture/Horticulture Building from 1 to 9 p.m.