Dark print with the bare outline of a man's face against a black background.

John Paul Jones, Black Knight, lithograph, 1963.
Gift of Nancy Noble and Dennis Hudson.

When the weather gets (slightly) cooler, friends thrift for the perfect costume, and campus clubs give candy by the handful, you know Halloween is just around the corner! One of my favorite things to do to get into the spooky spirit is experience or create art! Whether that be watching spooky movies or carving pumpkins, there are so many activities to help get you excited for the holiday. If you’re too scared of horror movies like I am, the Escalette Collection of Art has some artworks on display that will get you into the spooky spirit without totally terrifying you.

Study for Briar Rose by Carol Caroompas

Carole Caroompas, “Study for Briar Rose”, Colored pencil on paper, 1989

Known for his figurative paintings, drawings, and prints, John Paul Jones’ Black Knight mixes mystery and uneasiness within the frame. Looking at this lithograph, it is hard to describe what exactly is being is represented. The active strokes in the piece create movement within the frame. Despite the eye of this black knight being simply a spot of ink, the viewer can still feel a sense of loneliness and despair. The other eye of the knight appears to be closed – as if we have caught this knight after being wounded in a rigorous battle. Despite the ambiguity of the figure, the piece still evokes a feeling of sadness. You can see this piece for yourself on the fourth floor of Beckman Hall.

Continuing on the topic of ambiguous figures, Carole Caroompas’ Study for Briar Rose – also hanging on the fourth floor of Beckman Hall – brings a dark twist to the iconic fairy tale we saw growing up. The title refers to the original story by the Grimms Brothers that acted as inspiration for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Although the title implies this is a female figure, the figure appears neither female nor male. Instead, the viewer sees the monstrous profile of the figure’s skull. When looking at the piece, there is a peaceful yet disturbing atmosphere surrounding the work. Although the inside of the figure’s skull is exposed, they sleep peacefully. The roses framing the figure further elevate this peaceful yet disturbing atmosphere.

Ruby Osorio, Dual Nature, gouache and acrylic ink, 2008.
Gift of Meg Linton.

Similarly, Ruby Osorio’s Dual Nature displays a skull surrounded by flowers. This work is by far one of my favorites in the collection because of how the gouache and acrylic bring this piece to life. Regardless of the work being about death, the juxtaposition of the flowers suggests life after death. This is reminiscent of the holiday Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). I interpret this piece to represent how our spirit continues to live on through other’s memories. You can also view this piece on the fourth floor of Beckman.

Ultimately all these pieces display spooky juxtapositions and mysteries. While all of these subjects are about death or display disturbing images, they also give a viewer a feeling of peace. Hopefully, these pieces got you in the spooky spirit! The next time you’re in Beckman Hall, I hope you will take a trip to the fourth floor to view these beautiful pieces on display.

We invite you to explore all the works in the Escalette Collection by visiting our eMuseum

Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences is the proud home of the Phyllis and Ross Escalette Permanent Collection of Art. The Escalette Collection exists to inspire critical thinking, foster interdisciplinary discovery, and strengthen bonds with the community. Beyond its role in curating art in public spaces, the Escalette is a learning laboratory that offers diverse opportunities for student and engagement and research, and involvement with the wider community. The collection is free and open to the public to view.