The Joule is known nearly as much for its upscale hospitality as it is for its commitment to the arts. This spring, the hotel is presenting a lobby installation of lifelike sculptures by the artist Tony Matelli. Most of the works will be loaned from his existing “Garden” series, showing visitors and locals alike the strikingly realism that makes a Matelli piece a Matelli piece.
Whitewaller spoke with the artist about the beginning of these works, and what is not-to-be-missed in Dallas.
WHITEWALLER: Can you tell us a bit about the sculptures you’re showing at The Joule?
TONY MATELLI: They are from my “Garden” series, which were first shown at Marlborough Contemporary. They are decayed marble and concrete statues, which act as a support for fresh perishable food items that have been rendered out of bronze and other materials. They are frozen moments; they depict contrasts.
WW: Tell us a bit about your creative process behind these works. Where did it begin for you?
TM: I passed a junkyard on my walk to the studio, and one day there was a burned-out car in front. I happened to have some fresh strawberries with me, so on a whim I placed one on the destroyed car. The two objects spoke to one another in a powerful way. It reminded me of those “Death and the Maiden” paintings from the Northern European Renaissance. It seemed somehow erotic and strange and spoke very clearly to me about youth and old age. I started developing the idea using statuary instead of other objects to more clearly implicate the viewer in the work. Now that I have established this language, I will move toward other support objects.
WW: Your work is an interesting juxtaposition—an ode to traditional art mixed with contemporary twists, seen in your sculptures of food, plants, and humans. Tell us a bit about where your interest in art began.
TM: I think I became interested in art through building models as a boy. It captured my attention to be able to make little worlds and create imaginary scenarios through objects. This essentially was a sculptural practice, and I came to understand it as such. This explains the narrative aspect of much of my work, especially the earlier ones.
WW: What are you working on now?
TM: I’m working on transitioning this body of work into a few new directions. I’ll have a show at Marlborough in the fall with all-new work.
WW: Will you be in Dallas for the installation of the works? If so, what’s not-to-be-missed?
TM: I’m pretty sure I’ll be there. At least I hope to be. Obviously, the BBQ is essential.