With some frequency, I refer to a particular wrestling hold or image as art. In saying that, I’m trying to convey what I think transcends the solely titillating aspect of the wrestling moment, and suggest that I think there’s something transcendentally aesthetic about it. Should a prude deign to take a look, I argue that said prude ought to recognize the stunning beauty displayed, whether or not they are turned on by, or in any way interested in homoerotic wrestling. Every so often, a wrestling image sparks something in my memory, reminding me that it’s not just aesthetics in the abstract that’s drawing my attention to the artfulness of a scene. Here are a few of the wrestling images that I’ve managed to track down, in the filing cabinet of my memory as well as in the catalog of available images on the internet, demonstrating homoerotic wrestling life imitating art, or, more likely, how relatively transcendent motifs, proportions, and angles echo through different artistic genres, including homoerotic wrestling.
Hercules wrestling Antaeus has haunted me ever since I first saw Steve Reeves, as Hercules, play out this scene in Hercules Unchained. The key plot point of the myth is that Antaeus must be suspended off the ground in order to deny him the inexhaustible strength he draws from contact with the earth. So big, lifting bearhugs abound in artistic renderings of this moment. I believe this bronze of the scene, with a gorgeous, dominating reverse bearhug, is on display in Vienna. Similarly, BG East’s Johnny Modesto is Hercules to Brad Rochelle’s Antaeus in Matmen 16.
The first time I visited Stockholm, I took about 1,000 photos of the Sun Singer, a naked Apollo greeting the rising sun. It’s a pose of celebration and vulnerability. If you’re ever walking around Stockholm, you can’t avoid gazing at the spectacle of beauty, with his arms raised invitingly toward the sun. Austin Cooper’s pose for the BG East promotion of Hunkbash 14, both in substance and shadow, accomplishes the same ends, and similarly, I can’t take my eyes off his magnificent ass!
This bronze of the classical sculpture The Wrestlers has been often reproduced, though the oldest surviving version of it is, I believe, in Florence. It’s so directly erotically-inclined, it’s no wonder homoerotic mat wrestling regularly draws to my mind the allusion to this sensational image of intimacy and domination, with naked wrestlers (with perfectly muscled bodies) entangled so completely that it’s not always apparent which limb belongs to which combatant. I grabbed this comparable vintage black and white image from BG East’s Arena (Vintage Collections). I don’t know it’s provenance, but it so perfectly captures every last angle, that it almost certainly had to have been posed. Clearly, I’m not the only one who sees the homoerotic text and subtext in it!
The Torah telling of Jacob wrestling with the angel has inspired many artistic visions throughout history. The heavily muscled bearhugs are my personal favorites, like this French oil painting, with a naked Jacob who I wouldn’t mind squeezing me in nice and tight like that. Damien Rush captures the futility of Leloir’s angel, grasping at big Joe Robbins huge arms that, once latched on, will not let go until satisfaction is attained. There’s plenty to appreciate in Demolition 23!
Finally, back to Stockholm, because… Swedes. This sculpture of the Fången Viking (“captured viking”) again highlights the aesthetic beauty of youthful power tamed, constrained, and displayed in intimate vulnerability. A handcuffed Nino Leone, pinned against the mat room wall by Kayden Keller in BG East Grudge Match 6, signals the same gorgeous vulnerability.