In a Word: Carter

An up-and-coming visual artist finds a collaborator in actor James Franco, making a name for himself and getting his strange new film a screening at MoMA.

BY Aaron Krach

April 05 2009 11:00 PM ET

For viewers, these themes may seem obscure. More obvious are details about the star -- features that are usually overlooked in his better-known work: Franco's fingernails are very short. His smile begins on one side and then overtakes his entire face. His eyes water easily. Franco has adorable little love handles. He's quite ordinary.

"You're never really seeing James, but a shadow of him," Carter says. That's because "you're never really a solid representation of yourself at all times. You're different shades of yourself during different times of the day and for each experience and person you interact with. You're never a constant, and I wanted our film to touch on that."

He says "our" film because Carter considers Erased a real collaboration between Franco and himself. The men had met several times over the past couple years before embarking on this project together, and Carter talks enthusiastically about working with Franco on the set where they filmed in Paris. This is a rare moment for Carter, who isn't comfortable talking about himself, at least not with the press. He'd prefer to be one of his shape-shifting characters: multifaceted and obscure. He bristles when asked his age. He'll talk about his childhood and making art from an early age, but he doesn't want to say where he grew up. "In Connecticut," he finally allows, "in a small New England town." There's only so much he can hide, though. Carter is a successful artist with galleries and dealers in New York, London, and Paris selling his work. Much of his life is part of the public record.

Carter was originally his last name but is now officially his only name. He went to art school in Maryland and graduate school at the University of California, Davis. He lived in San Francisco for a few years and exhibited widely in the city before moving to New York. His career took off in 2005, when he was selected by curator Matthew Higgs for a small show in one of Manhattan's premier alternative spaces, White Columns. Shortly thereafter, he was invited to the prestigious Whitney Biennial in 2006.

Somewhere along the way, Franco discovered Carter's work, and the two became friends.

Tags: film

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