By Peggy Mackenzie
For those whose daily ride to work or home includes traveling south in Fairlea on Maplewood Drive past the fairgrounds toward the high school, the sight of transparent ghostly bodies floating in the air amid a collection of tombstones, skulls, and spiders is a daily injection of joy. Strange, wouldn’t you say? Why should visions of gruesome skeletons emerging from graves and signs inviting us to “Eat Locals” have the power to delight us? Evva Gilkeson knows all about it.
It all started three years ago – innocently enough – with Pinterest, she says, and trying to outdo a friend in making really creative outdoor Halloween yard art. From the look of the yard, what started out as a mildly competitive aspiration has very quickly devolved into a full-blown frenzy.
She calls it being enthusiastic. Her husband, Brian, says it’s become an obsession, and it’s catching. Now he’s getting into it, too.
Meet Evva Gilkeson, a cheerful, modest woman with rosy cheeks, a warm smile and open disposition. You would never imagine a person this well-balanced, married with two small children, would be unearthing such morbidity – and with such glee.
Zombies, ghosts, and ghouls – Oh my! Gilkeson is nothing if not enthusiastic about suggesting the horror of death and decay. She is unstoppable when it comes to making a playfully surreal array of tombstones emblazoned with “Sorry we’re DEAD.” All in celebration of Halloween. Evva loves sharing her over-the-top ghoulish yard art with the community. Next year, she enthused – Zombies! Coffins! So much untapped potential!
Of course, Gilkeson has explored other avenues of creative expression; she’s not just a once-a-year artist. She is a self-taught artist who has always dabbled in painting, but this year, she said, she’s gotten serious. She began doing portraits of pets and farm animals, and hasn’t stopped since.
“I am an artist for all animal lovers. I specialize in pet portraits, wild/farm animals, whimsical portrait paintings and paper mache creations,” Gilkeson writes on her FaceBook page. Some of her art work can be seen on display at Patina on Washington Street in Lewisburg. She also takes commissions for her pet portraiture, which can be viewed at evvagart.etsy.com.
Why does she do it? Obviously, “it’s fun!” And Gilkeson adds, “I like making people happy.” She also loves taking care of people. Starting this January, she will begin a three-year RN program at New River Community and Technical College. The nursing program will bring more stability to her young family, however, she insists she will continue to “do art predominantly.”
Who knew how rich the material would be for morbidity and how appealing it is to people. The transparent ghost bodies really had me mystified. During our interview, I asked, how did she create them? First she had to find an available body to serve as a model – which gave me an involuntary shiver. The idea, she says, is to quickly wrap the body in layers of cellophane and then firm it up with clear plastic packing tape. Surely no deaths were involved, I asked, only half joking. “Oh, no,” she exclaimed. “I do it in sections,” she said. “First, the torso, then the limbs. For example, this one I did of my mother.” It all sounded so casual, yet disturbing – obviously, my mind was caught up in the ghastly imagery around us. How could I trust her? I could be next.
I can’t wait!