Tony Matelli’s Other Creepy (and Not-So-Creepy) Art at Wellesley College

The artist made his big debut after a lot of fuss surrounding his Sleepwalker statue.

Tony Matelli, Josh, 2010 silicone, steel, hair and clothing, 72

Tony Matelli, Josh, 2010, Davis Museum, Wellesley. (All photos by Nathalie Davidson)

Thursday night at Wellesley College’s Davis Museum, someone asked Tony Matelli how he felt about the response surrounding his much buzzed-about sculpture, Sleepwalker. His response? “I feel fine.”

Matelli opened up the talk by showing his first artwork: an empty cardboard box. He continued with a quick anecdote about a professor who asked him how such an interesting person could make such boring art. A little cocky, but mostly playful, his opening set a lighthearted tone for the rest of the evening. He sped through a presentation of his artwork and was eager—at times, overly so—to answer questions. With just one exception, the questions came from curious students: Did you choose the position of the Sleepwalker? Yes. Did you always want to be an artist? Yes. How do you make your sculptures? It’s complicated. His presentation elicited laughter, mostly for the absurd titles of his artwork: “Fuck the Rich,” “Fuck the Rich Deluxe,” and “Fucked.” It was enlightening, but those expecting true fireworks after the build-up would’ve been disappointed.

Matelli’s exhibit, “New Gravity,” is broken up into two levels. The bottom floor features his broken windows, dirty mirrors, and depictions of walls. He explained that this level is supposed to represent frustration. You can’t see out of these windows, the mirrors are too dirty, there is no light, and you feel enclosed.

The upstairs is open with multiple windows that were strategically designed by the museum’s architect to allow natural light to brighten the space. To juxtapose the heaviness of the bottom floor, the upstairs gallery is supposed to represent a state of lightness. Josh, pictured above, is Matelli’s other signature “creepy” sculpture. Besides Josh are ropes that are also suspended in air. These are typical of Matelli’s work, which is known for defying the physical law of objects and reorienting perspective and ways of seeing.

Before Matelli’s talk, I walked alone through most of the exhibit, and besides one or two Wellesley residents, the museum was otherwise empty. By 3:30 p.m., only about 25 people had stepped foot on the top floor, the security guards estimated. In contrast, the place was packed for his 5:30 p.m. chat—every section, every floor with view of the artist was filled with people eager to hear what he had to say. For all the fuss in the past 48 hours, it didn’t exactly translate into people visiting the exhibit on its big debut, but instead, showing up to hear what Tony Matelli, the guy behind Wellesley’s infamous creepy man sculpture, had to say.

Here, some additional photos from Tony Matelli: New Gravity:

Tony Matelli, Josh, 2010 silicone, steel, hair and clothing, 72

Tony Matelli, Josh, 2010, Davis Museum, Wellesley.


Tony Matelli, Josh, 2010, Davis Museum, Wellesley.

Stray Dog, 2000, painted bronze, 20 x 50 x 15

Tony Matelli, Stray Dog, 2000, Outside Margaret Clapp Library, Wellesley.

Installation View, Davis Museum, Wellesley, 2014

Tony Matelli, Installation View, Davis Museum, Wellesley.

Window, 2012, painted stainless steel, bronze, 36 x 24 x 10

Tony Matelli, Window, 2012, Davis Museum, Wellesley.

Tony Matelli, Installation View, Davis Museum, Wellesley

Tony Matelli, Installation View, 2014, Davis Museum, Wellesley.

Davis Museum, Wellesley

Tony Matelli, Untitled, 2014, Davis Museum, Wellesley.

Tony Matelli, Untitled, 2014

Tony Matelli, Untitled, 2014, Davis Museum, Wellesley.

Tony Matelli, Arrangement, 2012. Painted bronze, 33 x 16 x 22 in, Davis Museum, Wellesley

Tony Matelli, Arrangement, 2012. Davis Museum, Wellesley.

Tony Matelli: New Gravity will be on view February 6-May 11, in the Bronfman & Chandler Galleries; and February 6 – July 20 in the Jobson & Tanner Galleries. Free, Davis Museum, Wellesley College, 106 Central St., Wellesley. Museum Hours:  Tuesday–Saturday, 11:00 am–5:00 pm, Wednesday until 8:00 pm, and Sunday, noon–4:00 pm. Closed Mondays, holidays, and Wellesley College recesses. Info: 781-283-2051,