Louisville Magazine

OCT 2018

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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114 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 10.18 Photos by Mickie Winters Donna O'Bryan can't remember a Halloween that didn't involve carving pumpkins. She still has memories of growing up in Louisville in the 1950s and watching her mother stab a butcher knife into orange pumpkin flesh. O'Bryan's preferred medium, though, is an artificial foam pumpkin, which she can turn into a character from, say, Twilight, Frozen or Shrek. For the past 11 years, she has shown her collection, totaling about 200 hand-carved pumpkins, at the Louisville Zoo during the Halloween season. At her Audubon home, a wooden Adirondack chair in the backyard has a red-eyed skull for a back. Jack-o'- lanterns smile and sneer above the front window. There are as many images of black cats here as there are of Mickey Mouse at Disney World. O'Bryan even wears black cat earrings. She carves pumpkins here all year long, scavenging discount bins at Jo-Ann Fabrics and Michaels as red and green devour orange and black. O'Bryan keeps an in- progress foam pumpkin wedged in a drawer near the stove. "Most people have a workshop," she says. "I have a kitchen." One tool that's a cross between an X-Acto knife and a soldering iron can heat up to nearly 1,000 degrees. It sits on top of the stove's iron grates. She adheres stencils to the pumpkins with simple school glue and wears safety MY METHOD There was a bloodbath in the bathtub. Red slasher- film splatters against the white porcelain, flecks of fur and guts clogging the drain. A gallon-sized plastic freezer bag on the floor contained frozen rabbit heads. Cassandra Michele's roommates stared in horror from the doorway of the apartment's only bathroom as she attempted to remove skulls from flesh. "There's so much more blood in them than you think there would be for just a head," Michele says. "The bottom of the tub was just totally full." The one skull that didn't break now hangs inside Bean coffee shop on Goss Avenue. Its gold-painted jaws hang open, seemingly in fury, with the bones of its siblings splayed on either side. A deer skull — sleek and long — nestles in lush white faux fur, a crown of pearls and vintage chains adorning its forehead. In matching filigree frames, a triptych of skulls and gold-leaf- encrusted wood lies on a bed of dried flowers. More is more for Michele, who calls herself a maximalist. Layers upon layers of teeth, dehydrated roses, fur, wood and jewels create works inspired by "bone churches" she visited in the Czech Republic. "Busy is good," she says. The 31-year-old has been creating this artwork since she started collecting skulls and sun-bleached bones during a hiking trip out west in 2013. She found piles of whole skeletons where wolves brought their kills. Sometimes people gift her bones. Her aunt, for instance, gave her the rabbit heads, which she bought from somebody who bred rabbits for food. Michele keeps materials throughout her Old Louisville apartment — boxes under the sofa, drawers of dried flowers, beads and jewels. An elk skull with a three-foot expanse between its horns sits against a wall in her living room. "I don't know what they're going to look like when I'm done with them," Michele says. "I have an idea, but they're always kind of evolving. In a way, they're kind of never actually done until somebody takes them away from me." — Jenny Kiefer MEET

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