Like everything else in this godforsaken year, Halloween 2020 is going to look and feel very different.
If folks follow CDC guidelines, trick-or-treaters will practice social distancing and trade in costume masks for adapted cloth face coverings (good luck, Mom and Dad). Candy will also be distributed outdoors, eliminating the need to touch that filthy doorbell. And grownups will get sloshed in quaint groups, preferably with family or “pod” members.
As unfun all of that sounds, COVID can’t cancel Halloween. It is a spirit, a theme, an occasion open to interpretation. To prove that case, we rounded up seven local creatives who’ve been rolling with the punches of the pandemic and making spooktacular magic right at home in the Alamo City.
Local artist John Picacio is a celebrated force within the realm of sci-fi and fantasy illustration. The San Antonio native has created original artwork — typically graphite drawings he colors digitally — for more than 150 book covers, including for the Star Trek and X-Men franchises, and a calendar for George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. An unexpected but well-received spinoff of his Lotería Grande series — a contemporary, Texas-size version of the beloved card game — Picacio’s calavera mask is one of the many artistic twists born out of COVID. “I felt like people needed something kind of fun to wear during this pandemic,” Picacio said. “And it’s been very popular.” Popular indeed: After selling out his first run of 1,000 masks, Picacio decided to “spin the wheel again” and make another thousand, which he says are selling steadily. “I love that it’s not just Mexican American people wearing it — it’s been embraced by people of all ethnicities. … It’s furthering that effort towards representation to where the culture is absorbed by all people … and that’s a really important thing.” $25, johnpicacio.com.
Through his award-winning floral design business Statue of Design and his eclectic Beacon Hill shop No. 9, David Garcia has proven himself as an artist with a distinct point of view. When the pandemic forced him to temporarily shutter No. 9, the Laredo transplant rose to the occasion with a series of San Antonio-centric puzzles. In preparation for the season at hand, Garcia partnered with local importer Maria Jose Fernandez Currie to stock the shop with wooden calaveras and Catrinas he packages into giftable kits complete with paint and paintbrushes ($50). But Garcia’s flair for dark drama is perhaps better evidenced by the arrangements he makes in two styles of ceramic skull vases: a small black vessel he fills with fresh marigolds in honor of Día de los Muertos ($30-$50) and a large white variety he fills with a seasonal assortment ($110-$150). $30-$150, no9floralandgifts.com.
San Antonio native Alexandria Kling arrived early to the COVID mask game. At the onset of the pandemic, she enlisted nearly everyone in her family to help her sew 500-plus face coverings she donated to essential workers across San Antonio. That charitable endeavor earned her TV coverage that led more than a few moms to her kids’ clothing line Trendy Little Rebelz. “I’m pretty much known for over-the-top outfits,” Kling told us over the phone while assembling a custom Medusa costume. “If someone’s going to Disney, they always hit me up for costumes or outfits for everyday life.” Drawing inspiration from Netflix’s summer blockbuster Tiger King, Kling recently whipped up sequined tiger-striped leotards and crop tops just in time for Halloween. While those, like many of her styles, are completely sold out — be on the lookout for trick-or-treaters dressed as Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin — Kling’s slightly irreverent approach to children’s attire can still be had in more casual offerings such as her Halloween-appropriate tie-dyed tees printed with the messages “I Put the Boo in Boujee” and “2020 Is Boo Sheet.” $20-$35, trendylittlerebelz.com.
It all started with a slug. Not your garden variety, but the parasitic alien type that slithers into people’s mouths and zombifies them in the 1986 horror comedy Night of the Creeps. “I didn’t think anybody would care for it,” artist Aaron Moreno said of the first toy he designed. As luck would have it, people — including notable artists Alex Pardee and Skinner — didn’t just care for it, they bought it through Moreno’s Instagram page and reposted it on their own social media accounts. “I went from like 30 followers to 5,000, and then here comes 10,000,” Moreno said. A kid of the 1980s who “grew up in drive-in theaters,” Moreno painted murals before finding his niche in the realm of collectible toys. Since establishing Retroband Toys circa 2013, the San Antonio native has made toys for Columbia Pictures, Orion Films, Adult Swim and Cartoon Network as well as horror icons Clive Barker and George Romero. In addition to a nostalgic and often-gruesome aesthetic, one of the key aspects that sets Retroband apart is that Moreno takes an old-school approach, sculpting everything in wax by hand and having them fabricated in soft vinyl in limited runs. Whether small-scale ($25-$40) or large-format (up to $300), pretty much everything he creates for Retroband and its spinoff Deadly Delivery — a sinister riff on Mr. McFeely, the “speedy delivery” man from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood — sells out quickly. Aiming to capture some of the childlike excitement of Saturday morning cartoon time, Moreno releases new toys twice a month on Saturdays. Scheduled to drop at noon on Saturday, October 24, in an edition of 10, Moreno’s latest offering is SUFFER — a 12-inch-tall monster rendered in black vinyl ($300). “It’s a blank, black figure, which is very sought-after. … You don’t really paint black, you kind of leave it alone and it looks mean and aggressive on your shelf.” $300, retrobandtoys.com.
One half of the dynamic gay duo behind the family-owned favorite Karolina’s Antiques, local artist Anthony Diaz creates prints, stickers, T-shirts and accessories that playfully fuse pop culture icons with aspects of his Mexican American heritage. A prime example, his “Latinx Ears” place pan dulce and nopal pads atop headbands one might find in a Disneyland gift shop. Riddled with juxtapositions and mashups, his work — which he sells under the moniker The Lemon — is often conceptualized in collaboration with his brother and co-worker Uriel Diaz. “It’s usually just us looking at each other and shouting words,” Diaz said of their brotherly brainstorming sessions. With Halloween in mind, the Diaz brothers found amusing ways to reference Beetlejuice, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Little Shop of Horrors, Mickey Mouse, Selena and Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s raunchy hit “WAP” in a tight collection of T-shirts. A standout, Diaz’s “Dreaming of You” T-shirt depicts Freddie Krueger’s finger knives clutching a rose. With a laugh, Diaz explained, “We love horror and we love Tejano music, so we really wanted to mash both of those worlds together.” $25-$30, karolinasantiques.com.
Beloved local artist Ray “Tattooedboy” Scarborough has a knack for capturing San Antonio culture in graphic illustrations. Rendered in a cartoony yet reverent style, his work has graced Current covers celebrating everyone from Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili to Pee-wee Herman and Frida Kahlo. As a haunting toast to one of San Antonio’s favorite urban legends, Scarborough immortalized the Ghost Tracks — where a busload of kids were allegedly killed by a train only to return as benevolent ghosts who push stalled cars across the tracks to safety. “It’s been my favorite ghost story from San Antonio ever since I was a kid,” Scarborough said. “Going out there was a family tradition. … [I know] it’s an illusion, [but] I really try not to [read] too much into it because I like the magic of it.” Set for a limited release of 50 signed and numbered screen prints, The Ghost Track Kids will be up for grabs the week before Halloween. For purchasing details, stay tuned to the social media channels below. $35, instagram.com/tattooedboy123, facebook.com/ray.scarborough.
Beyond offering one of San Antonio’s most playful retail environments, beloved Olmos Park boutique Feliz Modern does a commendable job of stocking wares created by Texas artists. Among the goodies up for grabs this season are ghost piñatas designed by co-owner Mario Diaz and bat-shaped cocktail stirrers crafted by Austin maker Kara Whitten. When quizzed about what might fit best into this roundup, co-owner Ginger Diaz quickly elected the whimsical snake and skeleton earrings shop manager Natazia Gustamante has been making. “Jewelry has become a fun language for me to connect with people,” Gustamante explained. “I’m always thinking about random objects that can be made into something wearable … [and] I wanted to offer something affordable but also weird and cool.” $10-$12, felizmodern.com.
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