By Alex Gurnham
There is an epic medieval throw down happening in my living room.
Trusty pink skateboard beneath his feet and battle-axe in hand, Ghost Rider Nicolas Cage is flying across the floor of the dark, haunted castle where the battle is being staged. He deftly dodges the ghost darting over his head and takes aim at his mortal enemy, Leaving Las Vegas Nicolas Cage, nonchalantly leaning on the wall holding a strawberry ice cream cone. In the background a lone bystander, Matchstick Men Nicolas Cage, takes in all of the action with a faithful parakeet by his side. Presiding over this whole scene is my roommate, his face barely containing his excitement as I walk through the door.
“Dude,” he shouts, not turning away from the board on his lap. “What IS this thing?”
This thing is the Nicolas Cage Adventure Set, the most recent creation of California-based pop artist Brandon Bird. It consists of a page of reusable vinyl stickers and a double-sided glossy background board (featuring the aforementioned castle and a relaxing beach scene) used to arrange
The concept came to Bird while sifting through thousands of pictures of Cage, searching for inspiration for a painting he wanted to create with the Face/Off actor’s guise. “I realized, ‘oh my god, every photo of Nicolas Cage is the best photo of Nicolas Cage,'” he says. “And I imagined lifting him off the photo and sticking him to another background, just like a Colorform.”
For the uninitiated, Colorforms are a University Games product that became popular in the ’70s featuring similar backgrounds and sticker sets for every kid’s TV show or movie you could imagine. The thick bordered, heavy stickers of He-Man and the Ghostbusters formed a physical memory for Bird, memories he worked to recreate in his own style. “It was my attempt,” he recalls, “at taking that very particular sense memory and colliding it with something morose and depressing that should never, ever be put in the hands of children, which would be Nicolas Cage.” Indeed it would.
The project is not that great of a departure from Bird’s usual work. He is best known for the 2003 “Law & Order: Artistic Intent” exhibit he curated, born out of a time when he says he was watching at least three hours of the show nightly. Featuring contributions from a cast of fellow pop artists, the collection included Valentines Day cards, watercolour and oil paintings of show characters, and even a full story colouring book that made it all the way to Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Peruse Bird’s website for a few minutes and you might find a pen and ink drawing of Chuck Norris as a woolly mammoth, or an oil painting of Christopher Walken assembling a robot in his garage. Bird is talented in a variety of forms, but his content always returns to bizarre recreations of visible culture.
If there is a point to the Nicolas Cage Adventure Set, outside of its inherent awesomeness, it is that reimagination of the everyday it invites. Bird’s next collection, another collaborative Law & Order exhibit created partly as a farewell to the show, promises to play on similar themes. “I think that’s really what pop art, or maybe even all art, is about,” says Bird. “Presenting something people encounter every day in a way they had never considered. Whether that something is a sunflower, or a soup can, or Sam Waterston’s awesome face.”
The Nicolas Cage Adventure Set and other creations by Brandon Bird can be ordered from his website brandonbird.com