Toni Matelli Sculpture Stirs College Community
by Madeline Barnes on Friday, March 7th, 2014Art provides a platform for freedom and individuality through various types of media to inspire feelings from observers. However, artists commonly find that their work is misunderstood, accused of crossing the line between social criticism and scathing offense. Tony Matelli, a sculptor noted for his phenomenally life-like human sculptures, recently tested the limits of his self-issued “artistic license” and succeeded in capturing the public’s attention, causing newsworthy conflict.
For his art show “New Gravity,” Matelli set out to “raise interest and provoke discussion” in the town of Wellesley, MA, according to CBS News. On February 3rd, he installed one of his sculptures on the campus of Wellesley College, depicting a life-like sleepwalking man clothed in nothing more than his underwear. As innocuous as this statue may seem, it has fueled controversy and cynical remarks among many who cast eyes on Matelli’s scantily clad sculpture. The Daily Mail UK reports that Zoe Magid, a junior at Wellesley College, found the sculpture so offensive that she initiated a petition for its removal, stating that “this highly lifelike sculpture has, within just a few hours of its outdoor installation, became a source of apprehension and fear, triggering thoughts regarding sexual assault for many members of our campus community.”
The impact that a single piece of art has had on this community has been drastic and even frightening. Regardless of the derogatory comments or complimentary remarks, many argue Tony Matteli’s simple sculpture is performing its sole intention: to make people think. An art show exhibits different works for the public to admire, analyze, and hopefully find a deeper meaning. Davis Museum Director, Lisa Fischman, said to ABC News, “I love the idea of art escaping the museum and muddling the line between what we expect to be art and what we expect to be life.”
When it comes to art, we are entitled to our own opinions and thoughts. Yet the artist must ultimately choose what his or her work will depict. While it is our prerogative to interpret an artist’s form of expression in any way we choose, an artist’s work should be respected, whether it is the Mona Lisa or a sculpture of an scantily clad sleep-walker. This artist took a risk and sparked discussion, and, although his decision resulted in controversy and public squabble, he was simply acting as an artist; he created a unique piece, putting it out into the world to be pondered and scrutinized.
According to CBS News, the petition for the removal of the statue has garnered over 300 signatures, confirming that the statue has offended many. Matelli, however, feels no regret for putting up the statue, only responding, “I feel fine.” A single piece of art can be beautiful and different, but more significantly can make its audience consider issues that they might ordinarily. Although this art has triggered both positive and negative reactions, its feedback proves that this piece has accomplished what it should: namely, that art is created not only for admiring, but to elicit reactions on a personal level.
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