Jim Carrey first entered the public sphere as a comic actor, on the show In Living Color, followed by starring roles in Ace Ventura, Pet Detective, The Mask and Dumb and Dumber. His career took more dramatic turns in outstanding films like The Truman Show, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Man on the Moon, a biopic of the surrealist comedian Andy Kaufman. Then he took a long break from Hollywood in which he cultivated other passions, such as drawing and painting.
Now a series of Carrey’s political cartoons made over the past two years and shared on social media are on exhibition. IndigNATION: Political Drawings by Jim Carrey, 2016-2018 is on show at Maccarone Gallery in Boyle Heights through December 1st.
Starting in 2016, Carrey became so indignant at Donald Trump and his acolytes that he started to vent his rage in caricatures, drawn on the pages of sketchbook, and then tweeted out the images, along with eviscerating captions.
Michele Maccarone selected around 100 of the drawings, framed them and put them on the walls of her gallery, saying she has a “history of mounting exhibitions that look beyond the orthodoxies of the art world. Jim Carrey’s political drawings are a great example of this.”
So why did Carrey, who has just wrapped a new movie Sonic The Hedgehog and stars in Showtime’s Kidding, choose to wield a pen to make his point? Does he aspire to be a political cartoonist? And will he stop the flow if the Democrats do well in Tuesday’s midterm elections?
DnA got some answers in a recent interview with Carrey that will air next week.
Here are some excerpts, along with some of the cartoons. Learn about how Carrey “sculpts” through acting and drawing, what he thinks it’s like inside Donald Trump’s head, and why none of his images have caused a firestorm like that experienced by comedienne Kathy Griffin when she lampooned the president.
DnA: When did you start drawing?
JC: Well, my childhood was spent mostly in my room concocting routines… I was also writing poetry and I was also trying to draw, just create. To me the thought isn’t complete until it turns into something creative.
It’s all sculpting to me, it’s the same thing. A lot of people aren’t allowed to go outside the lines and I go outside the lines all the time. I live outside the lines. It’s always been taking base metals and turning them into something fairly beautiful that people can enjoy — or people can be relieved by or confronted by.
So fast forward to 2016 and in comes this administration and you feel very frustrated with it. You have many vehicles for expression and a large stage, but you chose cartoons.
And I have to reconcile the fact that something so innocent for me when I was 7 to 10 years old — cartoons — have been repurposed for wartime.
Are you saying this is war time?
It is wartime. Absolutely, and I don’t mean a violent war necessarily although I think that there’s going to be more violence. . . because once the Alt-right make some progress, I doubt very much if they’re going to give it up very easily.
The drawings went on show before the November 6 election and they will continue to be on show afterwards. If the Democrats do well on Tuesday…
I hope I have no reason to draw another political cartoon.
As an actor you are known for completely inhabiting a character, even offstage. When you take on drawing Trump or Putin or Giuliani, do you have to become those people in order to express them in drawing?
A little bit, yeah, I have to live through them for sure.
So what’s it like in Trump’s head?
It’s a gigantic child needing a hug. But I think at this point he’s as bamboozled about himself as 40 percent of this country is. He’s tricked himself into thinking he’s a superpower of some sort. And honestly I just think that we lost track of what a hero is in this country. I think reality shows were a morbid fascination that became a dangerous thing.
One of the challenges of caricaturing is capturing character. How do you go about it? Is it the eyebrows? The line of the mouth?
It’s the interior. It’s the false belief, it’s the fear, it’s the rage. I’m drawing cowardice for the most part these days, I’m drawing fear and fear turns into violence.
Would you like to be called a political cartoonist?
I’d be honored to be a part of that pantheon. Absolutely. My gosh, what a brilliant contribution they’ve given to the world.
Are there any particular political cartoonists that you admire?
Some of your images are fairly lacerating. A colleague of yours in the world of comedy — Kathy Griffin — also produced a lacerating image of Trump and she wound up losing all her work on TV. She’s been deluged with hate mail. Some have floated the idea that she got treated differently because she’s a woman.
No, she didn’t. There’s a line. There’s a law. You can’t directly threaten the president and she got caught up in a photo shoot and (got into) kind of a blurry area there. . .
With animation and cartoons you can [make a political statement] in a way that reaches through prejudice. I believe it hits another part of the brain, somehow a receptive part of the brain.
Would you like Trump to write some eviscerating tweet about you?
No, I’d like him to leave. I’d like him to hand over the keys to Mar-a-Lago and the Trump Tower to the Feds and I’d like him to just disappear, just go away.
Let’s go back to the innocence of children. Five years ago you released a children’s book, “How Roland Rolls,” with illustrations by Rob Nason. Do you see other books in your future and do you anticipate doing the illustrations yourself?
Well, now that I’ve grown a little bit more confident at some point [it might] be kind of interesting to play around with the graphic novel.
You have a tremendous ability to express yourself, to pick up a pen and get your feelings out there. Do you think that cartooning for you has been a kind of a therapy and would you recommend it to other people?
I say draw even if you’re bad at it. It’s really great. It takes you away from the world. Anything that brings you into presence takes you away from your problems and your issues. This political cartooning doesn’t so much but drawing in general — and painting — it’s amazing, it’s an incredible process and since I began really heavily doing that about eight years ago I’ve turned many people into painters that had no idea they had that in them. It’s an inspiring thing to get around someone who’s been brought into presence by their art.
All images on this page courtesy Maccarone Gallery. “IndigNATION: Political Drawings by Jim Carrey, 2016-2018” is on show at Maccarone Gallery through December 1st. Address: 300 South Mission Road, Los Angeles, CA 90033. You can learn more about Carrey’s exploration of painting in the short documentary “I Needed Color.”