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Back To The Future’s Tom Wilson turns himself into pop art

I Am Pop Art (Screenshot: YouTube)
I Am Pop Art (Screenshot: YouTube)

Philadephia-born actor Tom Wilson grew up surrounded by pop art, a movement spearheaded by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein that drew on images from mass media and advertising and used bold, bright colors to catch people’s attention. After attending the American Academy Of Dramatic Arts in New York City, Wilson found himself part of the blockbuster Back To The Future franchise, embodying the role of bully Biff Tannen at various ages as well as such Biff-derived characters as Griff Tannen and Buford Tannen. Because of Future’s enduring success, Wilson saw his own image, his own face, being replicated in a thousand different ways for decades. He had become a commodity, a piece of merchandise. In other words, Wilson was living pop art, and this inspired him to create pop art paintings of his own. It seems like a classic case of “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” Wilson ruminates on these strange developments in a video essay posted to his YouTube account titled, appropriately, “I Am Pop Art.”

Wilson talks about the introduction to pop art he received in his youth. It came, surprisingly, from the younger nuns who taught at his Catholic school. Those lessons stayed with Wilson into his adult life when he saw himself becoming the human equivalent of one Warhol’s Campbell’s soup cans. Eventually, after decades of answering the same questions about Back To The Future, Wilson ran out of things to say about the subject. “So I painted,” he says. What he paints are Technicolor-esque images from the past, as vibrant as a four-color comic book. Old toys and consumer projects dominate his canvases. And, yes, Back To The Future and Biff are motifs in his work. He describes it as “a pop fugue.” In his narration, he expounds on that idea:

Fugue has two meanings. A fugue is a musical phrase that repeats and repeats the original musical idea into a tapestry of bits and pieces of things you’ve already heard or seen. And in psychology, a fugue means a sense of the loss of self-identity. It’s a pop fugue. I think I’m qualified to comment on it in this way.

Pretty smart for a guy famous for saying, “Now make like a tree and get out of here.”

[via Laughing Squid]

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