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Self-Sculpture: Is Bodybuilding an Art?

JJ PEET and Priyaanka Khatri discuss the intrinsic relationship between sculpture and bodybuilding.

by Matthew Sedacca
Oct 19 2015, 4:25pm

via Flickr user Roger W

Michelangelo's David, the result of an artist spending days-on-end carving washboard abs and toned muscles out of marble, appears as if it could spring to life. Similarly, the Metropolitan Museum of Art's warrior-like Marble statue of a youthful Hercules, chiseled by an unknown Flavian, features a ripped bod capable of twisting viewers' necks off (at least if it were alive).

We marvel at artists for crafting these immaculate aesthetics, but what about  bodybuilders who, in way, engage in the sculpture of their own bodies?

"I think with bodybuilding you're molding your body and you're creating what you believe to be like the idealistic aesthetic of yourself," award-winning New Zealand bodybuilder Priyaanka Khatri tells The Creators Project in a Skype Interview. "We see what we do as art."

Photo courtesy of Priyaanka Khatri

Although sculpting and bodybuilding may come across as two completely different processes on the surface, the art of sculpting clay and concrete and the art of carving muscle actually mirror one another. Great sculptors sweat and labor in the daily ritually, adding and subtracting materials to create what they believe to be the ultimate aesthetic that expresses their ideals. This isn't too different from the work of dedicated bodybuilders, many whom spend hours on end to form their own veiny, chiseled bods that convey, in their minds, the most beautiful versions of themselves.

JJ PEET, an artist who previously 'hacked' photojournalism, and an adjunct visual arts professor at Columbia University, tells The Creators Project that the redactive process of sculpting parallels this competitive level of bodybuilding. "The things that don't mean what you want them to mean, or like the things that are not as direct as you want them to say, like a muscle or something, those things you start to rip off and you start to redact those," PEET says. "So it's really a construction way of building, but I think that's sort of the way you do your body."

CLOWNEWS, 2013. Stoneware, porcelain, cedar, copper, brass, and fabric. 7 by 12 by 4 inches. Photo Credit: Lisa Albaugh. Courtesy of On Stellar Rays

In addition to processes utilizing similar techniques, bodybuilding engages in a sort of formalism that separates competitors from the everyman gym rat. There are plenty of meatheads that go to the gym, but not every bodybuilder actually understands the processes that help sculpt their corpuses.

"When I was doing a lat pull down, I was just pulling it down and I had no—my mind wasn't connecting to the myself in terms of the way it felt," says Khatri. "Whereas now when I do a lat pulldown I know exactly the points I have to squeeze and bend. I know where to target; I know if it's not feeling right."

Photo courtesy of Priyaanka Khatri

But beyond strict adherence to technique, both bodybuilder and sculptor engage in ther processes in such a way that they become lifestyles. Khatri explains that with the bodybuilder, it's beyond just the motion—it's a matter of dieting, going to the gym with an understanding of how one most efficiently exercises, and resisting temptations. PEET believes this also holds true with the sculptor: it's consistently attending to the art day after day, actually feeling out and communicating one's emotions through the art.

"I think you get to a certain point where you're not just making pretty objects but you're pushing the limits and going to a place where you've never been and that's what like separates the men from the boys," says PEET.  

So, what do you think? Is bodybuilding an artform? Tweet us @CreatorsProject or let us know in the comments below. 

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