In Italian, trappolare means “to set a trap.” The phrase, which Melotti (1901–1986) wrote in a letter to his wife Lina in 1943, could be interpreted in more than one way. On one hand, the words suggest that, for Melotti, art wasn’t something to create out of thin air: it was an expression of the universal human experience. In order to make art that would resonate with his audience, he needed to find and interpret something intangible and undefinable, something mysterious and interior.
On the other hand, Melotti had practical considerations. In the dark postwar years, he needed to “trap” an audience. It was a goal he quickly achieved. Those “little heads, big as fists” marked the beginning of one of the most productive periods of his long career. For years afterward, he made ceramic and terracotta pieces that were met with commercial, if not critical, success.