Realistic sculpture of sleepwalker in underwear stirs controversy
Published Friday, February 7, 2014 11:00AM EST
Last Updated Friday, February 7, 2014 12:38PM EST
It would seem that sometimes, a sculpture can be a little too realistic, at least for some.
A statue of a man sleepwalking in his underwear that was recently erected on the campus of the all-women’s Wellesley College has stirred up plenty of discomfort.
The statue, titled ”Sleepwalker,” is made of painted bronze but it looks so life-like, it’s spooking out students at the Massachusetts college.
The sculpture was erected on Tuesday as part of an exhibition at an art gallery on campus of the work of sculptor Tony Matelli. “Sleepwalker” was installed outside the Davis Museum, but within hours of its installation, students began a petition on Change.org asking their college president to have it removed.
The petition says the sculpture “has become a source of apprehension, fear, and triggering thoughts regarding sexual assault for some members of our campus community.”
It says while some might find the piece humorous or thought-provoking, it’s become “a source of undue stress” for many others. The petition writers say they would prefer to have the piece moved into the gallery, where students can see the installation “of their own volition.”
In an interview with The Boston Globe, Matelli says the sculpture is meant to present the idea of misplacement, abandon and “of being asleep at the wheel.” He says the piece needs to be outdoors to convey that idea, saying it was “designed to be in a landscape.”
He says he “couldn’t be happier” that the piece is creating such a reaction – even if some of the reactions have been surprising.
“I think it’s great that students are getting engaged to write and think about it. I think if everyone spends time with it and keeps their heads cool, a lot of good will come of it,” Matelli told the paper.
Davis Museum director Lisa Fischman wrote on the gallery’s webpage that she has heard from a number of students who find the work “troubling.”
"As the best art does, Tony Matelli’s work provokes dialogue, and discourse is at the core of education," she wrote, and invited students to continue the discussion in an open written form at the college’s student centre.
Fischman told The New York Times that there are no plans to remove the statue and that the gallery plans to keep the piece on public view until the exhibition ends in July.