New York City, USA – This October, the High Line Hotel in New York City, has brought back one of its most popular activities of the Halloween season: The Pumpkin Service, Bottle Service experience. Taking place every Wednesday through Saturday in October and on Halloween, guests and visiting New Yorkers will have the opportunity to have their portrait, or that of a loved one, carved on a pumpkin by the artist and Master Carver-in-Residence, Brent Heuser. While waiting for the magic to come to life, guests can enjoy a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label NV.
While this is not the traditional pumpkin-carving-family-affair, for those with a VIP (Very Important Pooch) in their lives, they can opt for the Pupkin Experience! A package that includes a pumpkin carved in your pet’s likeness, delicious doggie beer served in a custom travel bowl, doggie treats on-demand, and of course, your bottle of Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label NV.
We had the opportunity to talk with Brent about his work in pumpkin-carving (an activity which is quite popular during this time of the year here in the United States), and how he got started in this peculiar and amusing form of art.
1 – What was the motivation behind choosing pumpkins as the canvas to develop your art?
Pumpkins were just a hobby in the beginning! I’m an actor, and five years ago, while I was traveling with Chicago The Musical, we had a very extended break during the Halloween season, and I stayed with my family in Ohio. I had a lot of time in my hands and tons of creative energy to burn, so I took to carving! When I posted my first carvings of characters like Elsa from Frozen and Edward Scissorhands, they grabbed much attention. I kept pushing my skills, and eventually, the requests for commissions came in. I guess I became a little obsessed with the magic that is illuminated in a sculpted Jack-O’-Lantern. From Elsa, I went on to carve Lady Gaga, Jack Nicholson, Minions, and tons of other works. I guess the motivation was a challenge to myself and how detailed, intricate, or realistic I could sculpt this piece of art using only a pumpkin as my canvas. I’m completely self-taught, so most of the obsession is in figuring them out and getting better and better every Halloween season.
"I feel like any art boils down to perspective, and learning how to use whatever medium you're practicing on."
- Brent Heuser.
2 – What is the most challenging aspect of carving a pumpkin?
There are two things: time and knowing what not to carve. Carving a pumpkin at the right time for an order, and scheduling that time in a hectic Halloween Calendar, can be challenging! They need to be carved as close to when they are to be displayed as possible. Also, at The High Line Hotel’s Pumpkin Service, Bottle Service, the sessions are only an hour long. That may seem like a long time, but considering all the factors, you have to be swift and smart. This ties into the second aspect: knowing what not to carve! If someone watched how careful I was with every scratch or cut, they’d probably think I’m crazy obsessive – which I totally am! However, this style of pumpkin art is negative space. You need to carve deeper to bring attention to the highlights of your design. Such as the tip of someone’s nose or the glare in the pupils. That means that your darkest lines or shadows are the flesh of the pumpkin. If I carve too fast or I slip, there go my design’s nostrils! I am super-careful because of that! That’s a third aspect to consider when carving: how do you fix a mistake on a pumpkin that’s already carved? It can be done, but you have to be clever.
3 – Most artists keep a record of their pieces of work. How many pumpkins have you worked on to date?
Oh my, I have no clue! Honesty, it’s been well over 100 pumpkins for a few seasons. I’d say I’ve carved anywhere between 450-500 pumpkins to date. Gosh, that’s insane to think of! People ask if I get sick of them, and truthfully, I do not. I hope I get to carve 500 more and get even better as I do.
4 – Which do you feel has been your most meaningful or successful piece, and why?
The response to pumpkin carving from someone can be an interesting one. I can carve the most elaborate design and a meme-like pumpkin, with a very clever joke, and little detail will beat it! That’s what’s awesome about pumpkin art as well: it’s topical and current. With that being said, more than a few star pumpkins come to mind. I carved Beyoncé as my very first pumpkin this season, and it went crazy (in love). In my first year, I carved Lady Gaga as the Countess from American Horror Story. I posted it to Twitter, and moments later, it had thousands of retweets. Ever since then, I’ve done a Lady Gaga pumpkin every year. I carved her Camp look from the Met Gala this year, and a few years ago, I carved her Joanne album artwork. It was displayed at her family’s restaurant here in NYC as a centerpiece for the album’s release.
However, I think Ryan Phillippe’s pumpkin goes to the top of the list. I carved a pumpkin that got sent to an editor for consideration. He said something like, “I may be able to use this, but call me when he carves Ryan Phillippe’s butt from Cruel Intentions.” Well, the PR from the High Line Hotel sent me the message with a question mark. You better believe Ryan Phillippe’s butt greeted that editor when he came to the Hotel to visit Pumpkin Service Bottle Service. He had forgotten about making the joke and was blown away. Ryan actually posted it on his Instagram too!
5 – You mentioned that you are an actor. How else do you express your artistic nature? Do you practice other forms of art?
As mentioned before, I’m an actor first, so my focus is usually on that. Currently, I’m traveling and singing with Countess And Friends, the popular cabaret show starring Countess Luann from Real Housewives of NYC. When I’m all wrapped up with pumpkins come November and December, I’ll be back on the road in some of her shows! She’s a blast, and the show is so much fun. I like to wear many hats. It’s not just about art on a specific medium; it’s about having fun and creating every day. I guess I could be called the Jack-O’-Lantern of All Trades!
"It's not just about art on a specific medium; it's about having fun and creating every day."- Brent Heuser.
GUILD MAGAZINE - THE TRAVEL ISSUE