Throughout the ’70s and ’80s, Gerald Matthews lived next to the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan in an apartment big enough to host rowdy parties. One drunken night he and a band of party-goers raided the museum grounds, and it was there and then they agreed on the need for a museum that presented a “less factual point of view.”
After a successful acting career on Broadway and in commercials (he was the crooning voice of Sugar Bear for Sugar Crisp Cereal for 40 years), Matthews and his wife moved to Washington state in 1989. About a decade later, he found himself unsure what to do with the large constructions he’d made for this first solo show in Walla Walla. Then he found a spot above a drugstore on Main Street. He gutted and painted the place, installed his Surrealist and Absurdist sculptures and collages, and on September 10, 2001, opened the Museum of Un-Natural History.
Some balk at the entryway—hence the “annoyed” in Matthews’ proposal for potential visitors: “Enter and be entertained or annoyed by Dada in Walla Walla.” But many visitors are indeed entertained and stick around to see curiosities like the “Velocipedus Rex” made of four bicycle rims and animal bones and the “Ingenious Mechanical Sperm Bank,” a mannequin with some interesting additions.
Matthews continues to create new works in the large basement of his retirement home nearby, and every Saturday he can be found surveying the museum’s patrons admiring (or gawking at) what he lovingly calls “opinionated, satiric iconoclastic creations of questionable taste.”
Know Before You Go
The museum is free and open every Saturday from 10 am-2 pm or by appointment. Parental guidance is suggested.