It’s probably no startling revelation that a lot of us are fascinated by pop culture icons, their performances and their eccentricities. This curiosity ranges from simply having favorite actors and musicians, whose work we follow and whose occasional creative failures we might forgive, to a more addictive fascination with their private lives, if popularity of magazines like OK! or bloggers like Perez Hilton is any indication. The more artistically inclined among fans turn to their craft to express their fascination with entertainment icons. (LA based Gallery1988, for instance, has made its stock-in-trade to showcase art remixing and riffing on pop culture iconography.)
To my knowledge, however, there hasn’t been a show quite as massive and solely focused on one celebrity as the upcoming tribute to Nicolas Cage — he of the snakeskin jacket, but definitely not the bees — taking place at Balançoire this weekend. What started as a cheeky idea and an online call for submissions has since snowballed into an event that currently has over a thousand RSVPs and seems to have reached the ears of the actor himself.
Nicolas Cage has had quite a career, and I certainly appreciate how relentless he is in the pursuit of his craft, oscillating wildly between critically acclaimed roles and questionable, eyebrow-raising choices. Cage wowed us in Wild at Heart, Moonstruck, and Matchstick Men, left our jaws and hearts on the floor in Leaving Las Vegas, and then left us grimacing with some, uh, less than stellar projects (Season of the Witch, anyone?). Sometimes his intensity simmers under the surface, and sometimes he lets it all out. The point is, even though I am not a fan with capital F, Nicolas Cage is very much a part of my pop culture knowledge. This is clearly something I share with Ezra Croft, the curator of the upcoming exhibit, who felt there was something to be mined in our collective fascination with the actor.
I’ve been acquainted with Ezra for a number of years, and he’s always had a mischievous, irreverent sense of humor. Although our paths haven’t crossed in quite a while, when I learned about the show, I knew I had to pick his brain a little bit, and so we caught up via e-mail.
KQED Pop: I know your idea for the event was to host an art show that was playful and fun, but why Nicolas Cage, specifically?
Ezra Croft: I chose Nicolas Cage specifically because of the gamut of strange emotions he evokes. He’s been ingrained in our culture through his movies and personal antics, and I think that someone with such eccentric status easily proves an excellent study into the iconic and strange. His choices to take roles in more cheesy movies I think admirably show his nonconformist nature, as this art show is reflecting. It embraces the needlessly dramatic. In this, he has fallen from the “A-list’s” good graces, but still continues to thrive in the movie industry. He’s had such dramatic highs and abysmal lows!
Were you considering any other theme?
Before I settled on this, I had considered other subjects, such as Christopher Walken, Law and Order, and Bill Murray. I am planning a dramatically awesome event called “The Murray Affair” for autumn, so be ready for that.
Would you say the show is a parody or a tribute?
Many people first thought this show was a parody show, only reflecting internet memes, but it’s far beyond that. Many of [Cage's] true fans and haters have stepped forward and made art, both at his expense and [paying tribute] to his legendary status. As his film career over the years has shown with the public, it’s dramatic, serious, silly and true to Cage’s nature — irresistible with a hint of madness.
Sounds like the reception has been overwhelmingly positive. Any negative feedback?
I’ve received some small criticism, one writer calling it a “hipster art show,” but I’m not phased by it.
You’ve received countless submissions. What mediums are people using to pay homage?
Most works will be done in traditional paint, but there will be a sculpture comprised of hundreds off little cage faces, video projection art and some digital art.
What do you think Nic Cage himself would say about the art show?
I hope that if Nicolas Cage attended the show, he would have a good time and feel that his true fans were roasting him. It is an homage at heart, and we hope he would know that we enjoy the fantastic situations he embraces on screen.
This is your first major art show. What’s next?
This show is going to New York and Los Angeles, all scheduling permitting. I have several other events in the making, but I’m keeping them secret for now.
The Nicolas Cage Art Show and Musical Shenanigans party takes place Saturday, April 12 at Balançoire. Full event details can be found on the event page on Facebook.