A guy — dressed only in his underwear, arms outstretched — is walking around in his sleep, or maybe just staggering along, drunk. Stranger things have happened on college campuses.
But such a figure sparked controversy when he first appeared on Monday night at Wellesley College, the prestigious all-girls school in Massachusetts. The figure was spotted standing still in a busy area of campus near classrooms and dorms, certainly an eerie sight for a women's campus. But the man is not a wayward creep — he's an art installation.
The stranger in tighty–whities is a sculpture by artist Tony Matelli entitled "Sleepwalker." It's is part of an ongoing exhibit at the college's Davis Museum. At first glance, the sculpture looks absolutely real — so real, in fact, that most students' first reactions weren't, "What an interesting piece", but rather, "Who is this perv and can the police come get him?"
"Sleepwalker" is so lifelike that its installation has prompted a serious backlash. Over 300 Wellesley students have signed a petition to remove the sculpture, arguing that it's a trigger for victims of sexual assault. Zoe Magid, the junior who started the petition, said that "Sleepwalker" has been "a source of undue stress for many Wellesley College students."
Senior Annie Wang, and art history major, commented, "Wellesley is a place where we're supposed to feel safe. I think place and a context matters, and I don't think this is the place to put it."
Others in the community have embraced the figure — figuratively, of course. Many have stopped to take pictures with it, and when Wednesday's storm dumped snow on his head, concerned students put clothes on him so he could stay warm.
The director of the Davis Museum, Lisa Fischman, said, "As the best art does, Tony Matelli's work provokes dialogue, and discourse is at the core of education." College administration hasn't announced any plans to respond to students' concerns. For now, it seems that the schlub in the snow is there to stay.