This week, the first ever middle aged man enrolled in the all-girls Wellesley College. Well, almost. As part of the artist Tony Matelli’s exhibit, which will be open for the duration of the semester, a lifelike figure titled Sleepwalker will roam the campus. Appearing from a distance like middle aged man, arms outstretched, the sculpture has already stirred controversy.
The college junior Zoe Magid is disturbed by the work, and with over 300 signatures, she has petitioned college president H. Kim Bottomly to have it removed on the grounds that the silhouette of a man in his underwear might serve as "source of apprehension, fear, and triggering thoughts regarding sexual assault.”
The piece was chosen by Director Lisa Fischman of the college’s Davis Museum in part to explore the intersections of the art gallery space and the public life of the campus, and she and President Bottomly have issued a statement encouraging students to engage with the work and refusing to remove it. In their view, the work has served its educational purpose, causing students to enter “an impassioned conversation about art, gender, sexuality and individual experience.”
Indeed, the work is so realistic that it lends itself to innumerable subjective interpretations. As Sleepwalker interacts with the changing seasons, the unchangeable and exhausted human figure will take on new meanings. As he roams day and night in his Hanes underwear, he is alternately haunting, pitiful, and comedic, depending on whatever his sleepy naked form means to an individual and to the community. He’s unknowingly started a dialogue on what it means for a work of art to be triggering, but it’s up to his critics and fans to determine what awaits him when he opens his eyes. What do you think?
Thanks to WCVB and Buzzfeed
Images via Buzzfeed