Art-Full Halloween Costume Ideas from the NEA Staff

By Paulette Beete
a  19th century painting of several men watching a medical dissection
Portrait of Dr. Samuel D. Gross (The Gross Clinic). Thomas Eakins, American, 1844 - 1916. Gift of the Alumni Association to Jefferson Medical College in 1878 and purchased by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2007 with the generous support of more than 3,600 donors, 2007.

We love art so much, we want to be it! Well, at least for Halloween we do. We asked NEA staff which work of art (or character from a work of art) they'd be if they could. Here's what some folks had to say.

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Guiomar Ochoa, International Activities Specialist

I would be Chihuly’s Fiori Boat at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. The colors he used for it are magical and bright. Each piece of glass is spikey and gives me anxiety yet it’s a boat that sits on calm waters with a soothing waterfall behind it. And it’s surrounded by greenery. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen such a brutal work of art set in a most serene setting but it works so well. It feels like me. Colorful and spikey with bursts of anxiety yet ultimately serene and calm.

Tony Chauveaux, Deputy Chairman, Programs and Partnerships

Vaquero which means cowboy in Spanish, is Texan Luis Jimenez’s update of the traditional equestrian statue. The Spaniards brought cattle and horses to North America, and, in turn, the concept of what is today the American cowboy, was honed by the Mexicans in Mexico and Texas. At some point in their formative years, even today, I think every boy in Texas dreams of being a cowboy—or Vaquero.

Luis Jimenez’s fiberglass work, with bright colors and a glossy finish, greets visitors to the Smithsonian’s Museum of American Art in Washington, DC—a city known for its abundant population of equestrian public sculpture.

Kelli Rogowski, Public Affairs Specialist

I originally was going to say a Dale Chihuly sculpture, until I found out my friend and colleague Guiomar chose that—great minds think alike! We would have shown up to the party like matching technicolor sea urchins.

In the same glassy theme, then, I’ll chose the Crystal Palace, which was a gigantic building designed by Sir Joseph Paxton and built in Hyde Park, London to house the Great Exhibition in 1851. I chose this because there’s something especially poignant about something that’s gone forever, that you’ll never be able to see with your own eyes. And I love the unexpected love this building found, that it was meant to be a temporary exhibit hall, but was so magnificent and so beautiful and became so beloved, that it was relocated and kept around until it was destroyed by fire in the 1930s.

Bill O’Brien, Senior Innovation Advisor to the Chairman

If allowed, I'd like to bend the rules a bit and answer with my favorite past Halloween costume based on an art world character. I lived in a house in college where (almost) all of my room-mates names started with the letter 'B'—Bill, Brad, Bo, Booch, and Kenny. Kenny started answering to "Benny" when he moved in to better fit into a house widely known across campus as "the B-Hive." The notoriety was mostly due to a large costume party hosted every year at the B-Hive whose theme was a hybrid of a typical character-based costume crossed with a Saturday Night Live-style "Killer Bee." Basically, everyone had to attend with some popular character conceived as if he was in one of those skits, with the appropriate wig and wardrobe, etc. donned on top of the Killer Bee's bulbous striped abdomen and pipe-cleaner antennas. "Aunt-Bee", for example. My first attempt, "Obi Wan Keno-Bee" looked good on paper, but it didn't land right. Everyone mistook me as either "Moses-Bee" or (old testament) "God-Bee"—neither of which sounded very clever. The next year I scored with what continues to be my favorite Halloween costume of all time: "Bee-Thovan."

Katie Jones, Auditor

If I had the time and money to do it right, I’d love to be one of the dancers in the ballroom sequence of Labyrinth, starring David Bowie. Those outfits are beautiful and menacing and intricate and I just love them.

Paulette Beete, Social Media Manager

I'd be the 13th Doctor because who doesn't love time travel, rainbow t-shirts, and the ability to break gender barriers?

Lyndsi Pace, Graduate Intern, Research and Analysis

I would be Banksy’s Girl with a Balloon, partially shredded. I like making Halloween costumes a celebration of current events from the year, and the shredding of the Banksy painting was big news in the art world. I kind of liked the gimmick—I feel like art shouldn’t take itself too seriously.

Don Ball, Assistant Director, Publications

Andy Warhol’s banana from the cover of The Velvet Underground & Nico album. Peelable, of course. And I think Andy would agree the question shouldn’t be "Why" but instead, "Why not?"

Carlos Arrien, Web Specialist

I'd like to be Victor Brauner's The Surrealist to get into that realm of fantasy ... escape for a little while.

Daniel Beattie, Program Analyst

I would be one of the students seated in the surgical theater of Thomas Eakins’s painting “The Gross Clinic” (1875). The painting documents a moment in medical history. An art critic called it “one of the most powerful, horrible, yet fascinating pictures that has been painted anywhere in this century…but the more one praises it, the more one must condemn its admission to a gallery where men and women of weak nerves must be compelled to look at it, for not to look at it is impossible.” I love that sensational description.

Lauren Tuzzolino, Accessibility Specialist

If I could find the ideal metal-buckle-belted top hat to top off this musician’s look, I would be Slash from GNR, performing (or in my case, “air guitaring”) one of their most notable masterpieces "November Rain." Slash mesmerizes with his guitar riffs and talent and closes shows with a handstand for whimsical kicks to his heavy metal rocker edge. I am keeping my curly hair long in anticipation of this perfect act coming to fruition.