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Tuesday, November 03, 2009.

Pro wrestlers show artistic side in groundbreaking exhibit at AVC Art Gallery

A diverse group of artists united by their past careers in professional wrestling will be featured in an exhibit, "Beyond the Ring: The Art Careers of Professional Wrestlers," in the Antelope Valley College Art Gallery Oct. 26-Nov. 13.

Beyond the Ring

The gallery is located on the west side of campus, 3041 W. Ave. K, Lancaster. Shows are free to the public.

Featured artists include Steve Cepello, Marc Letzmann, and Jerry Lawler. Those familiar with the pro wrestling world might know them better as, respectively, "Steve Strong," "Excalibur" and Jerry "The King" Lawler, who gained notoriety in the 1980s for wrestling comedian Andy Kaufman.

Other artists in the show include former wrestler Pete Bregman and Ted Lewin, author of "I Was a Teenage Wrestler."

Cepello, who used to be part of a tag team with Jesse Ventura before Ventura was elected Minnesota governor, will present a talk during an opening reception, 7-9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29.

Cepello was an artist long before he performed a body slam or piledriver. He was painting at age 7 and was the youngest student admitted to the Kachina School of Art in Phoenix.

"The exhibition is as much about art careers as it is about exploring the richness of each artist's body of work," said curator Christine Mugnolo. "The display juxtaposes Steve Cepello's serene Southwestern-themed oil paintings to Pete Bregman's vivid work in graphic novels and places Ted Lewin's whimsical children's book illustrations next to Marc Letzmann's digital work in graphic design."

In addition to finished works, many of the artists will exhibit storyboards, conceptual sketches and color studies, giving a peek into their creative process, according to Mugnolo. 

Wall text and a brochure will explore the artists' thoughts about the connection between their past performance in the ring and their current performances on the page, canvas and screen. 

Also, the exhibition will acknowledge and explore the history of art's connection to wrestling.  An 18th century etching of a famous wrestling match will be compared to examples of wrestling legend Walt "Killer" Kowalski's photographic work of the wrestling world.

The exhibit coincides with the Art Gallery's film festival "Sound of the Body Slams: Wrestling in Documentary Film" on Saturday, Nov. 7, which includes talks by director Dwayne Walker and wrestling tag team the Ballard Brothers.

Gallery hours are 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, noon to 9 p.m. Friday, and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday.