Ben McNutt: Sculpture, Wrestling
Being the youngest featured artist this week – anticipated 2015 graduation- Ben McNutt has been making some impressive work in the last few years. The homoerotic nature found in historical art is not new to anyone that has had a basic art history course. Ben McNutt revisits this classical discussion and moves it into current, relevant culture. He does this by magnifying the sexual nature of a lighthearted man-on-man tango. Sculpture, Wrestling recontextualizes Greek sculptures and historical art to support McNutt’s observations on homoerotic behavior as it concerns the ideals of masculinity.
Ben McNutt is an artist pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, MD. Ben observes acts of homoeroticism intertwined in masculinity throughout history and utilizes artistic media as a vehicle for displaying these observations. Ben was most recently included in a group of works curated by Oranbeg Press, Across the Gutter. This was a series of exhibitions, events, and a pop up Bookshop.
Homoeroticism is embedded in physical culture. Renditions of this embedment have appeared in every art form throughout history. Greco-Roman marble sculptures present us with a physically perfected male form. Classicist paintings elongate and exaggerate the male physique. This inherent eroticism in physical culture is as present in contemporary discourse as it has been centuries before it. I find these displays of homoeroticism a paradox. They are representative of a heteronormative masculine ideal yet they are quintessentially homoerotic in my eyes. This homoeroticism is on display in museums, educational institutions, public venues, etc. This content is often disregarded as a platform for sexuality. I choose to use wrestling as a contemporary example to display alongside these works. Wrestling is homoerotic. Positions are physical. Players pin, grab, and wrap their bodies around another in order to win. The male physique is shown off by one-piece, tight-fitting spandex and nylon singlets. Body types are often in peak physical condition. Wrestlers hold strong admiration and veneration alongside each other. Wrestling has a fundamental relationship with arts and culture spanning for thousands of years. When approaching this content I see the eroticism that is on display. Framing these pieces in a specific way allows the erotic content already present within the content to then be explicitly drawn out. My work allows for sexuality throughout history to be questioned and to facilitate contemporary conversations in regards to it.
GG: What in contemporary photography excites you?
BM: What a mess it is. Everyone has differing opinions about the state of photography. No one knows what to make of things, and no one has any answers. When I catch a guy at the supermarket wearing a singlet and I capture it with my phone, the lines between what can and can’t be contemporary photography become so blurred that I’m not even sure myself what I’m doing.
GG: Getting past these uncertainties, do you have a structure that you adhere to that defines finished work?
I started investing in my wrestling work nearly two years ago and it is unclear to me when it will be completed. At this point I see the work as an archive as more and more pieces are made that fit within the concept of wrestling. When I move on from a individual piece or groups of pieces it is because the work has opened up new avenues to explore within the overarching concept, ie. wrestling, and that can then be added into this archive. I can’t imagine I would completely be able to vocalize all the ideas and feelings that come along with a concept, I can try my best, and I do, but it is complex, and it’s hard to think I would be able to pair it down to singular pictures and works that I have done. This failure to complete an idea energizes me as I continue making work.
GG: In one word what would you say your work is?
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