Why Jim Carrey Needs to Paint: “Painting Frees Me, from the Past and Future, from Regret and Worry”

In his top-gross­ing come­dies, actor Jim Car­rey dis­played an antic qual­i­ty that seemed to rule over his per­son­al life as well. While oth­er stars used inter­views as oppor­tu­ni­ties to nor­malise them­selves to the civil­ians in the audi­ence, clown prince Car­rey was relent­less, an uncon­trol­lable fire hose of fun­ny faces and voic­es that felt not unlike demons.

All that out­put was exhaust­ing, and caused many to won­der if the man was capa­ble of calm­ing down long enough to receive any mean­ing­ful input.

His per­for­mances in films such as the Tru­man Show and Eter­nal Sun­shine of the Spot­less Mind sug­gest­ed that per­haps he was…

As did the rev­e­la­tion that he spent a lot of his child­hood in his bed­room draw­ing — the flip side to his crazy liv­ing room per­for­mances, staged, in part, to keep an emo­tion­al­ly trou­bled fam­i­ly from sink­ing any low­er. He also drew in school, aggra­vat­ing teach­ers with unau­tho­rised por­traits.

As Car­rey recalled in a 2011 inter­view:

After I became famous, my sixth-grade teacher sent me sketch­es she had con­fis­cat­ed. She kept them because she thought they were cute. She also knew how to har­ness the ener­gy. If I was qui­et, she would give me 15 min­utes at the end of class to per­form. Today, I’d be on Rital­in, and Ace Ven­tu­ra would have nev­er been made.

These days, the fun­ny man seems to have turned his back on per­form­ing in favor of a more con­tem­pla­tive visu­al arts prac­tice. His most recent act­ing cred­it is over a year old. As David Bushell’s doc­u­men­tary short, I Need­ed Col­or, above reveals, the quan­ti­ty of Carrey’s out­put is still impres­sive, but there’s a qual­i­ta­tive dif­fer­ence where the artist is con­cerned.

His face and body are calm, and the crazed imper­a­tive to enter­tain seems to have left him. Watch­ing him go about his work, one is remind­ed of car­toon­ist and edu­ca­tor Lyn­da Barry’s obser­va­tions about the neu­ro­log­i­cal con­nec­tion between the abil­i­ty to go down the rab­bit hole of art and a child’s men­tal health:

I think it’s what keeps us sane. I think about how, if I’m sit­ting here with a kid who’s four years old and I have all these mark­ers and I say, do you want to draw, and that kid’s too freaked out to draw, we’d be wor­ried about that kid a lit­tle bit, wouldn’t you? We’d be wor­ried about them emo­tion­al­ly. OK, on this side I have a 40-year-old, same sit­u­a­tion, she’s too scared to draw, but we’re not wor­ried about her. Why? Because there is a tac­it under­stand­ing that some­thing is going on when kids are play­ing or [draw­ing] that has some­thing to do with their men­tal health. All of us know that if a kid is not allowed to play till he’s 21, he’s going to be a nut. He’s going to be a psy­chopath, actu­al­ly. The brain stud­ies they’ve done of kids in deep play show that their brains are iden­ti­cal to an adult’s brain that is in cre­ative con­cen­tra­tion. We know that play is essen­tial for men­tal health. I would argue that so is draw­ing.

Art saves lives, right?

Carrey’s ear­li­er suc­cess affords him the lux­u­ry of time and mon­ey to immerse him­self in his new voca­tion with­out lim­it­ing him­self to any one style or medi­um. Giant paint­ings, tiny sculp­tures, works that involve black light, squeegees, or shred­ded can­vas stitched back togeth­er with wire are all crick­et.

Giv­en his movie star sta­tus, nasty reviews are to be expect­ed, but approval is no longer what Car­rey is seek­ing:

When I paint and sculpt it stops the world for me, as if all time has been sus­pend­ed. My spir­it is com­plete­ly engaged, my heart is engaged, and I feel com­plete­ly free. I think I just like cre­at­ing. All of it is a por­tal into present, into absolute, qui­et, gen­tle, still­ness. This involve­ment, this pres­ence, is free­dom from con­cern. That’s har­mo­ny with the uni­verse.

Those who can’t make it to Sig­na­ture Gal­leries in Las Vegas this Sep­tem­ber 23 for a $10,000 per cou­ple open­ing of Carrey’s paint­ings can take a gan­der at his work for free here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Behold The Paint­ings of David Bowie: Neo-Expres­sion­ist Self Por­traits, Illus­tra­tions of Iggy Pop, and Much More

Jim Car­rey Sings a Pret­ty Damn Good Cov­er of The Bea­t­les “I Am the Wal­rus”

Art Exhib­it on Bill Mur­ray Opens in the UK

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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