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Explore ‘X-Files’ creator Chris Carter’s mind with this curious art exhibit

With The X-Files, Chris Carter became a living legend of science fiction. Not only did he give television audiences the ultimate odd couple in pragmatic Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and spooky believer Fox Mulder (David Duchovny), but week after week the show creator unleashed a new and scary paranormal mystery for audiences to obsess over. The show ran for 11 seasons, won 16 Emmys, spawned two feature films, made global celebrities of its stars, and spurred a generation to want to believe. And with a reboot in the works through Ryan Coogler, there’s fresh reason to revisit the classic series. 

But there’s much more to the now 67-year-old Chris Carter than simply being the fascinating mind behind The X-Files, and fans can get a glimpse into his depths with his new art show, “The Chris Carter Collection.” Now running at Legacy Media West in Los Angeles, the exhibition not only includes memorabilia from his X-Files days, but also an ode to Hello Kitty, some personal mementos, and a curious set of hate plates. 

Mashable spoke with Carter about his collection, beginning with a large banner that you can’t miss as you enter. It reads “My Crowning Achievement” in gold letters over a backdrop made up of prints of Hello Kitty. 

Why would the creator of one of the most iconic sci-fi shows include Sanrio’s iconic cat in his show? As Chris Carter himself told us as we toured the exhibit, “It’s up for interpretation.” 

Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a shock that Carter’s creative mind would incorporate into his own show a plethora of art — including photos, paintings, murals, and even surfboards — that will have you standing, staring, and questioning every intricate detail of not only the art itself, but also the person behind it. 

The collection as a whole doesn’t solely transport you back to The X-Files universe, Carter warned. While there is memorabilia and UFO imagery, it’s not predominantly X-Files-centric. 

But don’t you worry, X-philes, Carter’s show has enough sci-fi goodies to keep you satisfied. We wager Mulder and Scully would be pleased. 

The X-Files memorabilia doesn’t disappoint.

"X-Files" memorabilia at The Chris Carter Collection.

Credit: Legacy Media West

As you walk through the exhibit, you’ll see a director’s chair from the set of the show, first-edition magazine covers featuring Duchovny and Anderson, and a real deep-cut: a how-to guide on taking care of William the Rabbit, a bunny plushie named after Mulder and Scully’s son that fans transported around the world before presenting him as a gift to Carter as a thank you for the show’s 10th season. As Carter said, “He’s been literally touched by fans all over the world.”  

But for even the most die-hard fans, there is one piece in the X-Files section of the exhibit that might have you scratching your head. It’s a framed photo of former president Ronald Reagan. Carter explained the movie star-turned-commander-in-chief was a fan of the show, and had personally written Carter a note saying, “The truth is out there.” 

A framed photo of President Ronald Reagan.

Credit: Legacy Media West

In a career full of big moments, it’s one of Carter’s most treasured. For us as fans, how does it feel to know the 40th president had such love for extraterrestrials? What did he know?

The presidential influence on Carter’s collection doesn’t end with Ronald Reagan. In another room, you’ll be intrigued by a variety of dinner plates intended as a dubious tribute to a president of whom Carter is less fond. 

What’s up with dinner plates and Donald Trump?

The caption above the hate plates speaks to Carter's intention.

Credit: Legacy Media West

Carter was particularly passionate about his so-called “Hate Plates,” six dinner plates he hand-painted with words describing former President Donald Trump. Or at least, we think they’re about Trump. 

When asked about the origin of the hate plates, Carter said each plate describes “he who shall not be named but is often referred to as ‘Orange.'” The words on the plates — some of which include curse-laden insults — reflect labels Carter heard, read, or enjoyed over cocktail-hour conversations about the unnamed inspiration. 

“All the words you didn’t see on the news about Orange, that weren’t allowed to be said on TV,” Carter teased, “but that people felt about him, like ‘fuck face,’ and ‘asshole’ …. These are the words I heard used the most and decided needed to be on the plates.”

But why dinner plates? Could this all be an indication of family dinners gone wrong? Just like most of the art here, “it’s up for interpretation,” said Carter. 

“Manic and Xanax” are muses.

"Manic and Xanax" on display at "The Chris Carter Collection."

Credit: Legacy Media West

Central to the exhibit is a ceiling-tall collection of photographs named “Manic and Xanax,” all of which were taken by Carter himself. Each picture contains the same tree located in the same desert plain, but each print has its own unique color scheme from purple to yellow to green and more. Each offers a different perspective of the tree — some up close, some far away — but all are of the same tree in the same desert. So, what’s with the name? And why all the different colors and depths? 

These pieces are representative of how you see when you take a Xanax, with the colors swirling around, altering perceptions, explained Carter.  

Everyone’s reaction to prescription drugs can be different, but, from the pop of the colors to the depth perception of each picture, if you look at “Manic and Xanax” long enough, it takes you to a relaxing meditative state where your mind is artistically sedated.

Carter welcomes a new generation of X-Files fans.

Prints and the hate plates are on display.

Credit: Legacy Media West

Thirty years since the program first made its debut, Carter still is close with its stars. “I talk to David and Gillian often, David almost daily,” he said.

Although Carter has since moved on from his X-Files writing and continues to craft more art, he said, “I miss the collective energy of a crew and a cast who are working to make something great.”  

He has high hopes for the new cast and crew that are set to be a part of the newly announced X-Files reboot. Carter is not involved in the production, but he believes that Ryan Coogler, who is set to helm the new series, will satisfy not only fans of old but also attract a new generation of X-Files devotees. “I’ll be watching and enjoying it from home,” Carter said, “as a fan.”

The Chris Carter Collection is on display at Legacy West Media until March 10. Visits are available on Saturday by appointment only.