Photos by Sam Varela
He's one of the few actors to have both an IMDB page and a page on Know Your Meme. Nicolas Cage is the bacon of celebrities. That's the only way I can wrap my head around what the internet has done to this man. A man whom we've known for decades as nothing more than a maybe-good actor. A maybe-good actor who, in recent years, takes on shitty roles to support his spending addiction, and has become an obsession with a generation of people who have made it common to interact with one another through a series of GIFs as opposed to actual words. My confusion the whole time this has been happening is as to whether or not the trend has started because Nicolas Cage is loved or hated. With celebrities like Morgan Freeman and Bill Murray, it's different. It's way more clear-cut. These men are idolized, praised, and respected via image macros of their faces. With Nic Cage, it's all over the board.
That's why, when I heard about a Nicolas Cage art show happening in downtown Los Angeles, I felt inclined to go. Oh, but this was not just any old art show. This was a full-on party. Nothing like the stuffy, uptight art galleries your bourgeoisie parents go to to get drunk off just enough wine that they momentarily regret having you instead of moving to a loft in Spain to create brilliant expressionist paintings. This was going to have electronic dance music and liquor. No parents allowed!
It cost $20, and that did not include free drinks, but hey, we were going to be seeing the images that had been splattered on thousands of DeviantArt accounts come to life. Worth it!
I arrived at the space a half-hour early. There was already a small line forming outside the entrance. Some girls in line were fancily dressed up, like they were about to go clubbing or whatever it is that young, fancy girls do. Next to them was a couple wearing Nicolas Cage shirts. Ah, yes. This is what I want to see. As they embraced each other, I made up a scenario in my head as to how they met. She was on a message board, posting an image of Princess Ariel with Nicolas Cage's face. He replied to her post with a picture of Princess Belle with Nicolas Cage's face. A third person responded, "Why are you posting these in a thread about IBS?" Ugh, no one gets us. Oh, but now they get to express their love freely here without judgment. Here at Cage-Con, everyone gets them.
At around 8 PM we were let into the space. We had to go up three stories in a rickety elevator that probably has not been renovated in more than 50 years. Great, I thought, I'm going to die at a Nicolas Cage art show. However, we safely arrived at the top floor and my mild panic attack was over. I entered, and in the center of the room was a bunch of people sitting on couches, talking over the EDM being blasted by DJs wearing fur vests. Farther down, I saw the spot where the majority of the art was. Paintings, acrylics, and prints hung on the walls. It was small and maze-like. Everywhere I looked, Nicolas Cage was looking back at me. No matter where I turned, there he was.
"Paradoxically though it may seem, it is none the less true that life imitates art far more than art imitates life." -Oscar Wilde
I'm sure I was experiencing a nightmare Patricia Arquette has had many times. None of the art was unexpected. All of it was typical. Nicolas Cage. Nicolas Cage screaming about bees. Nicolas Cage as Elvis. Nicolas Cage as Sailor Moon. Nicolas Cage as Pokémon. Nicolas Cage in Raising Arizona.
"One eye sees, the other feels." -Paul Klee
It basically looked like what you get when you Google-image-search "Nicolas Cage funny." Unlike the images you can easily see online and in print, if you really want them hanging up on the wall of your dorm these images were selling for hundreds of dollars. Some, thousands. We were supposed to take this art seriously, I guess.
"The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance." -Aristotle
An hour went by, and more Cage-heads showed up. The space was getting pretty full, and people were posing in front of the wall memes. The more I saw what a joke this all was, the more I started thinking about Nicolas Cage, the man. How does he feel about what has become of him? He, at one point in his life, wanted to be taken seriously as an actor. He's a Coppola, yet refused to let his name get him anywhere, which is why he uses the surname "Cage." That's commendable, is it not? I'd think Nicolas Cage despises the mockery disguised as praise, but then I saw this picture come in to existence and I no longer know what to think. He is defeated.
"Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth." -Pablo Picasso
Now, I know a lot of you are thinking that I should stop being so goddamn uptight about this. Just sit back and take a joke, idiot. Right, yeah I get it. This show is meant to be a simple display of fan art. However, I can't help thinking that an opportunity was missed. A lot of these works--which were beautifully done by talented people-could have turned fan art into something more. Not to be a total art snob, but there's something to say about the re-creation of digital art as fine art, about pop culture in relation to intellectual art. There's something to say about celebrity and the loss of personhood when one attains such a level of fame.
But none of this was being said. All that was being said was, "Hey, look at Nicolas Cage if he were a Pokémon, haha." Basically, what really got me down was that a joke had officially been beaten to death. Nicolas Cage, being the joke, of course. Then I had to listen to a horrible funk-rap band play live. That's when I left-when I couldn't take any more of the sad joke and funk-rap started playing. I left wondering whether art might be dead. If it is, at least Nicolas Cage will live forever. Everyone wins.
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