Block title

Work Samples

Turkish Oil Wrestlers, Yağlı Pehlivan Güreşleri

series documenting adolescent Turkish oil wrestlers participating in the 656th annual Kırkpınar wrestling event, an UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity Site and the most important oil wrestling event in Turkey.

"Wrestling" Hardcover Artist Book

Book Description: Wrestling consists of McNutt’s initial three works on wrestling, Uffizi Wrestlers, Wrestling Compendium, Pankratiast, and an essay on McNutt, A Perspective On Athleticism, by Jennifer Wright Song. Uffizi Wrestlers depicts the classic greek statue of the same name slowly photographed through the lens of a large format camera through various angles, perspectives, and compositions creating imagery that is abstract, naturalistic, sexually explicit, sweet, violent, and powerful.

The Uffizi Wrestlers

Uffizi Wrestlers depicts the classic greek statue of the same name slowly photographed through the lens of a large format camera through various angles, perspectives, and compositions creating imagery that is abstract, naturalistic, sexually explicit, sweet, violent, and powerful.

The Wrestling Coloring Book

Book description: We are obsessed with wrestlers. We drew them in cold damp caves thousands of years ago and today we color them into the pages of a coloring book. Though Ben McNutt’s photographs turned line-drawings of wrestlers are light-hearted, unusual, and at-times comical they serve as an introduction into his world of wrestlers

Share:

About Ben

Baltimore City

Ben McNutt's picture
The sport of wrestling holds culturally and socially significant subtexts, such as power, athleticism, and desire. McNutt's in-depth, artistic exploration of this sport throughout history demonstrates a natural obsession with these subtexts. Perhaps McNutt's artwork is a representation of all of our fantasies, obsessions, intrigues, and desires. His work stands as a part of a larger body that chronicles the human fascination with the athletic form.... more

Turkish Oil Wrestlers, Yağlı Pehlivan Güreşleri

  • Oil wrestling, called so because wrestlers douse themselves with olive oil, is the national sport of Turkey. Oil wrestling traces it’s origins to ancient Babylon, making it older than the more recognizable wrestling form introduced by Greeks and Romans. Though cognate forms of this style of folk wrestling can be found throughout Western Eurasia, it is uniquely Turkish in its modern identity due to its popularity, stylized wrestling traditions, and cultural identity. Before matches begin the pehlivans (“wrestlers” or “heroes”) oil their bodies with a mixture of olive oil and water for the dual purpose of making it harder for a wrestler to grip one’s opponent and for the endurance of the afternoon summer heat. Oil wrestling is more about strength and endurance than clever moves. Each wrestler wears a kispet, sturdy leather trunks from the waist to below the knees. These trousers worn by wrestlers are an important symbol of creativity in the field of handicrafts, made from the hides of healthy animals, and are hand-embroidered often with the back containing hand-studded writing that can indicate name, location, sponsorship, or even political stance. He also wraps coarse cloths around his knees in order to block the opening of the cuffs against his opponent’s probing fingers. There are a variety of pins that decide who the winner will be, from submission, to lifting his opponent entirely off the ground and carrying him several feet.
  • Matches are held all over Turkey throughout the year, but in early summer, around 1000 competitors gather in Kırkpınar, an UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage site, for an annual three-day wrestling tournament to determine who will be the baspehlivan (chief wrestler) of Turkey. I traveled to Turkey to make a series about the tournament and its youth, and it is where I struck up a conversation with Haktan Elkilic, a young turkish oil wrestler whom I met when I was photographing Kırkpınar. We shared with each other how we imagined our respective countries viewpoints on the relationship between oil wrestling culture and masculinity to be. As we conversed about the difference between the two countries I realized how important it was for me to understand how oil wrestlers view turkish masculinity through it’s sports culture: how does its ritual and tradition inform how adolescents view masculinity? Does oil wrestling conform or break from normative turkish masculinity? What are adolescent wrestlers relationship with masculinity?
  • Wrestling is a thing of local folklore and international organization. Great homes, institutions, and collections raise the platform of these icons for a multitude of reasons. Styles are free and amateur, bodies brawl on beaches and mattes with oils on flesh. Little eccentricities and personalities individualize the regalia and are unmistakable to wrestling itself. The form of a wrestling is exciting, but all contact between individuals kindle desires and impressions of the world around them. Turkish Oil Wrestling is one such example, and its youth help to define the significance of the sport.

Wrestling

  • Wrestling consists of McNutt’s initial three works on wrestling, Uffizi Wrestlers, Wrestling Compendium, Pankratiast, and an essay on McNutt, A Perspective On Athleticism, by Jennifer Wright Song. Uffizi Wrestlers depicts the classic greek statue of the same name slowly photographed through the lens of a large format camera through various angles, perspectives, and compositions creating imagery that is abstract, naturalistic, sexually explicit, sweet, violent, and powerful. Wrestling Compendium is a window into his massive collection of wrestling-related subject matter: stamps, newspaper clippings, stamps, and photographs. Pankratiast, McNutt’s first artistic interpretation of his obsession with wrestling, depicts wrestlers, still lives, and a large panorama through the lens of naivety.
  • Designer: Ben McNutt
  • Publication date and place: September, 2016, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  • Edition: 500
  • Format, binding: Hardcover, sewn bound
  • Size: 20.32 cm x 25.4 cm
  • Number of pages and images: 114 pages
  • "Wrestling" Hardcover Artist Book

    Book Description: Wrestling consists of McNutt’s initial three works on wrestling, Uffizi Wrestlers, Wrestling Compendium, Pankratiast, and an essay on McNutt, A Perspective On Athleticism, by Jennifer Wright Song. Uffizi Wrestlers depicts the classic greek statue of the same name slowly photographed through the lens of a large format camera through various angles, perspectives, and compositions creating imagery that is abstract, naturalistic, sexually explicit, sweet, violent, and powerful.
  • Wrestling

    Wrestling, spread with partial foldout.
  • Wrestling

    Wrestling, spread
  • Wrestling

    Wrestling, spread
  • Wrestling

    Wrestling, spread

The Uffizi Wrestlers

  • Hidden in plain sight within the atrium of the Main building at the Maryland Institute College of Art sits a statue of two men wrestling naked. It is a plaster copy made decades ago of the Uffizi Wrestlers, a Roman statue that sits within the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. I felt this statue significant, not only due to the importance of the original, which is thousands of years old, but due to its placement within the university. Arguably the most graphic and explicit statue owned by MICA, it remains relatively unnoticed with little to no fanfare besides being used as subject matter for life drawing assignments. It is a visibly powerful statue. Although commonly referred to as the Uffizi Wrestlers, The Wrestlers, or The Two Wrestlers, it more accurately depicts the sport of Pankration, a mix between what we now would refer to as MMA, or Mixed Martial Arts, which is a combative fighting style and wrestling. The only two rules within Pankration were no eye gouging and no biting, therefore you were permitted to break your opponent’s bones. The bottom individual is being held in is such a hold and is about to have his wrist broken. Over the course of six months I set up a large format camera to photograph the statue from every possible angle. Resulting photographs were diverse despite the fact that the subject matter never changed. The various angles, perspectives and compositions produced images that were sometimes sexually explicit, or sweet, or powerful. The infinite number of gestures that could be made proved telling of it’s complicated past, and its undecided future.

The Wrestling Coloring Book

  • Book description: We are obsessed with wrestlers. We drew them in cold damp caves thousands of years ago and today we color them into the pages of a coloring book. Though Ben McNutt’s photographs turned line-drawings of wrestlers are light-hearted, unusual, and at-times comical they serve as an introduction into his world of wrestlers
  • Designer: Ben McNutt
  • Printer: Westminster Press, St. Louis, MO, USA
  • Publication date and place: March, 2017, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  • Edition: 100
  • Format, binding: Spiral-bound Softcover
  • Size: 21.60 x 27.94
  • Number of pages and images: 36 pages

Daniel, A Wrestler

Cultures are identified by feats of strength and icons. Societies are made up of people, parts, places, and passions. Wrestling is wonderfully ancient. Its aesthetics are expansive in practices and homes. Grappling such combat is filled with focus and gesture. The sport is varied in rule and method. History meets modern styles. Incorporated mythology is encapsulated by the photography of Daniel, A Wrestler. The patronage of wrestling is not lost on these images. Exercise and show expound great reliefs of activity and fair. Tournaments bring people together; they are every creed. The celebration of camaraderie and friendships is exposed beyond languages, something deeper forms in passions and drive.

McNutt’s imagery is curious. “What am I photographing?” He endeavors a prying eye and exquisite light. Flesh and sweat, smell. images of Daniel are social and complex in mystery. Who is the wrestler? What is his goals? Zeus became the ruler of Earth after wrestling his father Cronus. There is a magical prowess lurking in the depths of bodies. People are glorious. They create something more than themselves, it floats in the air and attracts. McNutt is after that desire. Answers are in images and in the moment of capture it may be impossible to know exactly what anything is.

Feelings come together with surprises and informed imagery in McNutt’s work. The information of the pictures cries out to great colors and forms. The body beguiles new possibilities in extracted reform. The allure of elements transforms, things become sculptural and details feel illustrated. The document of wrestling goes back fifteen thousand years, drawings on walls, French, Babylonian, Egyptian reliefs. McNutt’s work moves amongst rich histories and adds new breath and possibility. What’s said is as much about the body as it is about the ideals these men uphold. They are beautiful and unusual. Athleticism is incorporated, but isn’t completely necessary to appreciate. The layers are parts, conversations move, quiet and together.

Pankratiast

  • McNutt’s first artistic interpretation of his obsession with wrestling began with the creation of a large, narrative panorama, still lives, and portraiture in Pankratiast. Using digital photography and studio lighting, he depicted over eleven wrestlers in a white space. They sat on benches, wrestled on mats, and stood close to one another. Doing so allowed him to create a dreamlike space where wrestlers looked and acted exactly how he desired. The same holds true for his intimate still lives using their wrestling equipment. However, his first artistic attempt to explore wrestling revealed a limited knowledge of the sport. McNutt claims that Pankratiast is flawed in detail. The wrestler’s stances aren’t perfect and the rules are not clearly depicted. But, this series provided a starting point in the trajectory of the work to follow as his knowledge of wrestling and photography grew exponentially.

Connect with Ben

website:

Ben's Curated Collection

This artist has not yet created a curated collection.