Art / Pop Culture / Comedy
9 x 12 inches
65 four-color illustrations
The world needs its clowns. It’s the clowns of society who make us laugh—sometimes—and who help us view our lives with greater clarity and perspective. Bigger than life, with their exaggerated features and makeup, dressed in their gaudily mismatched and hilariously oversized outfits, clowns refuse to be overlooked. And yet, the portrait of the clown has been all but ignored. Trained to respond respectfully to serious portraiture, we try to read meaning into their big mouths, prosthetic noses, and unruly tufts of hair. Ultimately, the paintings are mysteries: what did amateur artists, who lavished so much time on these iconic images, hope to capture and accomplish?
Clown Paintings is a twisty little illustrated book that showcases 65 outrageous and compelling clown portraits, painted by amateurs and selected by actor-director Diane Keaton. By turns hilarious and heartfelt, joyful and mortifying, these artworks were collected over the years by Keaton, who found herself as mesmerized by their mute eloquence as she was by their bad taste. It’s easy to see what drew Keaton to them. They embody contradiction; they’re fabulous and horrible, hysterical and dignified, generic yet absolutely specific. And above all—in the grand clown tradition—way out there. The clowns, from whom we expect mischievous, out-of-control behavior, are painted as solemn and decorous subjects to contemplate. Instead of distracting us with brooms, squawking horns, rubber mallets, and slapstick humor, we get the chance to look at them carefully—and to consider how they not only make us laugh, but how they allow us to look more closely at ourselves. And to contemplate the abyss.
PLUS! Clown Paintings includes commentary and observations from America’s to comedians and clowns: Woody Allen, Carrol Burnett, Phyllis Diller, Whoopi Goldberg, Eric Idle, Lida Kudrow, Jay Leno, Jerry Lewis, Penny Marshall, Steve Martin, Martin Short, Ben Stiller, Dick Van Dyke, Robin Williams, and more!