what David S. Pumpkins taught me about art

Over the last couple days, I’ve seen a bunch of social media activity about an SNL skit starring a character named David S. Pumpkins. This character is played by Tom Hanks, and looks like this (click the photo if you haven’t watched the skit already).

This “Haunted Elevator” sketch aired over a year ago, and somehow I completely missed it. But on it’s anniversary, and with an animated short coming out, there has been a bunch of renewed conversation around this sketch, notably this conversation in Vulture.

The sketch itself started as a weird, half-baked idea and seemingly got weirder as it became “full-baked.” It was just a silly sketch based around an absurdist idea, and somehow it very quickly went viral and took over Halloween a year ago.

In the Vulture article, the writers talk about how it took on a life of its own and people began breaking it down – reading things into the meaning that were never there.

There was one article that, I don’t remember who wrote it, but it was like, “David S. Pumpkins is a genius takedown of Trump. This orange, loud, crazy person says he’s gonna scare you and no one takes him seriously until the end. He just confuses people and makes them angry but then he scares you in the end.”

And I was like, “You are giving us so much more credit than we are due.”

I’ve also recently become completely obsessed with the podcast Dissect. This podcast dedicates an entire season to one particular music album and every episode in the season is a track-by-track analysis and breakdown.

Currently, the podcast is dissecting Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Every episode is 35-45 minutes breaking down a 3-8 minute song.

The guy goes deep and really explains the genius of Kanye, but I can’t help but wonder sometimes, “Did Kanye really take this much care into all of these details?”

I remember a similar thought in high school as we discussed and broke down short stories and poems in a literary analysis. “Surely the author wasn’t intending me to get all of these things out of this?”

What I really think is going on is that sometimes people make exceptionally good art. Sure, a lot of it is driven with intention and thoughtfulness and some details are obsessed over. But for really good art, I think a lot of it is instinct.

I think in the case of David S. Pumpkins, Kanye West, and Ernest Hemingway, they created in such a way that not only had intention, but it allowed space for interpretation.

They probably didn’t know all the things that may be interpreted, and interpreted logically in the context of the work. They probably didn’t realize consciously every single good decision they made in the details – there are places they went on gut, knew it felt right, and left it at that.

And when it hits, we are able to step back, dig in, and analyze where it succeeds and why it felt right in the first place.

There is place for developing your taste. There is place for developing your feeling of your work and following your gut. It may lead to creating something you didn’t even realize.


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