Wellesley Sculpture: Nearly Naked Sleepwalking Art Creeps Out Students

Image: Wellesley Sculpture: Nearly Naked Sleepwalking Art Creeps Out Students

Thursday, 06 Feb 2014 04:29 PM

By Morgan Chilson

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A newly installed statute at Wellesley College of a man sleepwalking, naked but for a pair of underwear, has disturbed some students who started a petition to have it removed.

More than 570 students had signed the online petition by Thursday afternoon asking to have the zombie-looking man removed after he appeared outside to introduce an exhibit by sculptor Tony Matelli that will open at the Wellesley Davis Museum.

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The petition on Change.org called the sculpture “a source of apprehension, fear, and triggering thoughts regarding sexual assault.”

Lisa Fischman, director of the Davis Museum, responded online to the students who signed the petition, pointing out that “art has an extraordinary power to evoke personal response, and to elicit the unexpected.”

“I love the idea of art escaping the museum and muddling the line between what we expect to be inside (art) and what we expect to be outside (life),” Fischman wrote. “I watched from the 5th floor windows today (intermittently, over several hours) as students stopped to interact playfully with the sculpture. They took selfies with him, snapping pics with their phones, and gathering to look at this new figure on the Wellesley landscape — even as the snow fell.

“Art provokes dialogue, and discourse is the core of education,” Fischman wrote. “In that spirit, I am enormously glad to have your response.”

Some of the students have told various media outlets that they find the statute creepy and disturbing, and that it has triggered bad feelings in some victims of sexual assault.

Fischman’s response on Change.org continued to spike controversy, as Wellesley students both for and against removing the statue responded.

“The people complaining about this statue are probably completely oblivious to the irony of the fact that they are attempting to stifle artistic expression free speech at a LIBERAL ARTS school,” wrote Matt Chappel on the petition.

But many disagreed. “I can report that the responses that this statue is invoking are largely ones of discomfort, anxiety, shock and disgust,” Sruthi Narayanan wrote.

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