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Body Slams and Baby Oil: Nicole Hayden Celebrates the Art of Wrestling

Body Slams and Baby Oil: Nicole Hayden Celebrates the Art of Wrestling

Pro wrestling isn’t just body slams from baby-oiled behemoths like Hulk Hogan. Just ask Nicole Hayden, whose Wrestlers series celebrates the artist’s childhood obsession with iconic WWF beefcakes of the 1980s.

The idea for Wrestlers stems from a drawing Hayden discovered in one of her childhood sketchbooks. “This crude painting had me thinking about my childhood, and my childhood heroes,” Hayden writes in her artist statement. “It reminded me of dressing up in a cape, building a ring out of a mattress and pillows, and pretending I was the Macho Man himself,” she continues.

While wrestling often gets a bad rap, continually mocked as a sport and dismissed as low-brow entertainment, artists like Hayden are keen to play along with the WWF’s over-the-top antics. “The ideas of nostalgia, pop culture, and […] subcultures fascinated me,” says Hayden, who includes such spandex-clad luminaries as The Butcher, The Sheik, and The Warrior in her series.

Character-driven and full of kitsch, Hayden’s work approaches wrestling with a devotion usually reserved for the drama of daytime soaps, themselves an extension of the theater. “I realized Wrestlemania may have been one of the first reality TV shows ever,” she tells NOT REAL ART. “An engineered drama that one does not watch for sport, but for the spectacle.”

“[Wrestling is] an engineered drama that one does not watch for sport, but for the spectacle.” —Nicole Hayden

Wrestlers

Painter Nicole Hayden indulges her childhood obsession with iconic WWF beefcakes of the 1980s.
‘The Hulk’
Painter Nicole Hayden indulges her childhood obsession with iconic WWF beefcakes of the 1980s.
‘The Warrior’
Painter Nicole Hayden indulges her childhood obsession with iconic WWF beefcakes of the 1980s.
‘The Snake’
‘The Million Dollar’
‘The Sergeant’
Painter Nicole Hayden indulges her childhood obsession with iconic WWF beefcakes of the 1980s.
‘The Butcher’
‘The Sheik’
‘The Dog’
‘The Dragon’
‘The Piper’

Nicole Hayden: Website | Instagram

Want to be featured in Lightbox? Email editor@notrealart.com with a short introduction and a link to your online portfolio or three images of your work.

Morgan  Laurens 

Morgan Laurens is an arts writer who lives in the Midwest and enjoys saying "excuse me" when no actual pardon is needed. She is the founder of So Long See You Tomorrow, an organization that helps artists and creative entrepreneurs write about their work, craft a story, and get back in the studio. Learn more at: https://solongseeyoutomorrow.com

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