Growing up, I became obsessed with the wild world of professional wrestling. I instantly fell in love with the over-the-top characters, the athleticism, and the fantastical storylines. For my senior thesis, I tasked myself with creating a personal exhibition that portrays the different versions of self that one performs as. I planned for these exaggerated portraits to be referential of classic professional wrestling characters as well as people one might meet in their everyday life. My idea was that these characters would resonate well with viewers and allow them to draw connections and perhaps understanding. I also planned to make this project performative by using myself as each character to further present the idea of the "ordinary" human playing different roles in their life.
I began my process with an extensive amount of research and brainstorming. Being that the project was extremely open-ended, I had to narrow down the elements that I felt were most important to present. It soon became pretty clear to me that wrestling was going to be used as a vehicle in order to describe a larger theme of self presentation. I created a series of fictional characters that I would later perform as (see below for character descriptions). The characters were all photographed in collaboration with photographer, Lilly Steers, who was able to get the absolute best out of me. At that point, it was decided that the vernacular of vintage fight posters was valuable and recognizable. Rather than promoting a public event, these posters became much more intimate portraits of each character. I designed each poster in separate layers, as I later silkscreened them. A variety of analog effects were utilized in the printing process in order to speak to each individual character. Finally, the exhibition was organized with each character placed side by side atop a facade of a vintage wrestling ring. In addition, I created an "event program" as a giveaway item for the viewers.
The Result and Reception
The exhibition received a very positive reception! The viewers all seemed to resonate with and understand each individual character as well as its relation to wrestling. The exhibition received a lot of foot traffic and interest. Although I would have liked to create more characters, I was very happy with the final product. I felt that the exhibition accomplished what I wanted it to.
Emmett Vile is mysterious character. He is a ruthless creature who shows absolutely no remorse or mercy and claims that his closest friend is fear itself. His finishing move, the PANIC DROP is one of the most dreaded maneuvers ever devised, but its results bring joy to Vile. It’s been said that the only way to overcome Emmett Vile is to beat him at his own game. One must outsmart, and outthink Vile in order to stand victorious.
Mighty Mitch Sullivan
Mitch Sullivan is a real stand-up guy! Hailing from small town roots, Sullivan has overcome all adversity that has ever stood in his way. Many regard him as a hero, as he always puts himself before others no matter what the circumstance. His strength really sets him apart from the bunch, for the feats he accomplishes in the ring are nothing short of remarkable.
Referee Sammy Sheen
The referee might not be the most prominent character, but he is the one constant variable in every situation. He always stands right in the middle. Sometimes he gets excited or even frightened, but it’s his duty to know his role and just be himself.
Lenny D. Luxe
Lenny D. Luxe appreciates the finer things in life. Designer clothes, fancy meals, private jets, and the most beautiful women in town are just a few of Lenny’s favorite things. Known to many as the “Lavish Leopard,” Lenny prides himself on his manipulative and clever in-ring techniques, but he insists that he is most certainly not a cheater nor a coward.
Pippy is one of the most lovable characters to ever lace up a pair of boots. Unfortunately, he just can’t ever catch a break. Smeltz holds the most impressive losing streak in history, but certainly not by choice. Fans admire Pippy’s courage, dedication, and resilience. Pippy hopes that one day, he will pick up a win and the ovation will be like nothing ever seen before.