Kenny Krause can’t draw. Put a canvas in front of him, and he couldn’t paint a masterpiece. He has no musical talent, nor any skills in woodworking or clay.
But every Halloween, 56-year-old Krause intricately carves a pumpkin so spectacular that he’s become a bit of a celebrity around Raleigh’s University Park neighborhood.
“He has one medium, and it’s pumpkin,” his wife, Leigh, laughs.
Each year, Krause picks a celebrity who died in the past 12 months and carves his or her portrait onto a pumpkin, painstakingly cutting and shaving the fruit’s skin to replicate facial features and hair. He has captured Eilzabeth Taylor’s piercing eyes and Andy Griffith’s pleasant smile, Robin Williams’ humor and angst—all in gourd form.
It started when Johnny Cash died in 2003. Krause had used patterns to carve simple Halloween designs into pumpkins with his daughters, now 18 and 20. So when he stumbled upon a pumpkin-carving pattern of the famous singer online, he gave it a shot.
“I put the light in and I’ll be darned, it looked Johnny Cash,” Krause recalls.
There was no turning back for Krause, who says he “sells paper bags for a living” as sales director for an international packaging company. He used patterns he found online for the next few years to carve the likes of Ray Charles and Johnny Carson. In 2007, he couldn’t find a pattern of a celebrity who died, so he used computer software to generate his own design of Luciano Pavarotti to work from.
So who will grace Krause’s pumpkin this year? It’s a secret, as always.
But as he does every year, he will create a pattern and go to the farmers’ market to pick out a large pumpkin with a flat-ish surface for his art. The morning of Halloween, he will set up shop in his sunroom, carving away for hours. Then, once it gets dark, he will unveil his work—the only art he ever makes. —Sarah Nagem