‘It’s Just Exploding’: Jim Carrey on His New Career as an Artist and Political Cartoonist
The comedic actor-turned-artist spoke about his painting, his political cartoons, and the Trump administration at the New Yorker Festival.
Every time you think you know Jim Carrey—the comedian who catapulted to fame in the ’90s with starring roles in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Dumb and Dumber, and The Mask—the actor goes and reinvents himself. In the late ’90s and aughts, he transitioned from rubber-faced comedian to serious actor, appearing in critically acclaimed films like The Truman Show and indie-favorite Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Now, Carrey has found yet another incarnation—as an artist and cutting political cartoonist who isn’t afraid to take aim at the Trump administration.
“I get to a certain point where people go, ‘Oh, my God, you’re really great. That’s what you are.’ And I go, ‘Nope. I’m something different,'” Carrey told Colin Stokes, associate cartoon editor of the New Yorker, at this weekend’s New Yorker Festival. “I want to constantly be fashioning the limbs to this avatar and I want to constantly be growing, so what happens is I get a lull in popularity a little bit, and I kind of go away and I learn a new thing.”
Carrey shocked the world last summer when he released a documentary short, “I Needed Color.” For six years, he had been quietly devoting himself to a studio practice, painting and sculpting as a way of mending personal heartbreak after his split from actress Jenny McCarthy in 2010 after five years of dating.
“All pain becomes art. That’s the rule,” Carrey explained to Stokes. “Some horrible thing happens in your life. For me, I end up at the art studio.”
Of late, the horrible things inspiring Carrey have been largely political, and the actor has made numerous headlines with his political cartoons. Those works will be the subject of a gallery show, “IndigNation: Political Cartoons by Jim Carrey, 2016–2018,” opening October 23 at Maccarone in Los Angeles.
“I’m so honored that I’m having a show,” Carrey told artnet News during the Q&A portion of the event. “The last few years have been laced with challenges and explosions of creativity that have created tributaries that I have no idea where they’re going—in every direction! The painting, the sculpting, the drawing…”
Carrey had threatened to drop out of the New Yorker Festival after conservative political operative Steve Bannon was announced as the headliner, an appearance that was almost immediately canceled. Unsurprisingly, the actor-turned-artist didn’t shy away from the political at this weekend’s talk. He opened with a short song, making instrumental-like sounds. “This is a piece of music I wrote this afternoon,” he deadpanned. “Called ‘Requiem for the Supreme Court.'”
After multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, contentious hearings, and a limited FBI investigation into the claims, Judge Brett Kavanaugh had been confirmed by the Senate earlier that day. In response, Carrey had posted a new political cartoon praising Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford on Twitter, encouraging voters to take to the polls to voice their opposition to the Senate’s decision.
“Are we going to get to see all those Confederate statues again?” Carrey asked the crowd. “What’s the positive there? Hanger sales go through the roof?”
Jokes aside, Carry said that the confirmation of the Supreme Court’s new, presumably pro-life justice made him think twice about attending the festival. “It was very difficult to put myself in a place where I wanted to come and share myself with a bunch of people tonight,” he admitted. “A country that doesn’t take care of its women and take care of its children in our schools is not a country we can fight for. Football players will stand for the flag and the anthem when it stands for them.”
“I think that people are underestimating the danger involved in having this—such a lack of power over a president like this,” Carrey added. “If we ever do get back into power, we need to revisit presidential powers. I don’t think the founding fathers had a traitor in mind being at such a high office. They didn’t count on that one.”
Carrey also offered some commentary on his political cartoons. “This is as flattering a portrait as I could do,” Carrey said of his controversial drawing of White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. And I got a little bit of flak from it…when they said, ‘Oh, jeez, it’s not nice to do an ugly portrait of this person,’ I went, ‘Ugly is on the inside, man. And, yes, in some people, you know, it manifests outwardly.'”
Another cartoon shows Trump in a straightjacket, hanging upside-down above the city streets. Carrey said the piece shows “the escape artist that is Donald Trump, being mocked by the Twitter bird, using the American flag as a prop, and losing what little hair he has left.”
“I tried to get that to be the official portrait,” joked Carrey of a third drawing—of Trump in a bathrobe, preparing to inhale an ice cream sundae. “It’s looking like that won’t happen now.”
Though some have encouraged Carrey to channel his political discontent into a run for office, it’s not in the cards. “I serve the world the way I serve the world,” he explained, after definitively ruling out a 2020 run for the presidency. “I’m a creative. And I can’t not paint and I can’t not create. It has to go some someplace, and I can’t sit behind a desk, and I can’t glad-hand people all the time, and I can’t be dishonest.”
Wherever the future may take him, Carrey is incredibly excited about his newfound passion for the visual arts and the doors it is opening. “It’s just exploding,” he said. “I don’t know where it’s going. You don’t know which tributaries are actually going to cut a groove, you know, [but] you do it.”
“IndigNation: Political Cartoons by Jim Carrey, 2016–2018” will be on view at Maccarone Gallery, at 300 South Mission Road, in Los Angeles, from October 23–December 1, 2018.
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