Nearly naked, “Sleepwalker” zombie sculpture triggers debate at Wellesley College

20140204-084035.jpgThe new sculpture of a sleepwalking guy in his tighty whiteys on Wellesley College‘s campus is stirring debate and discussion, including in the form of a petition on the website.

The Tony Matelli sculpture, which ties in with an exhibit opening at the Davis Museum this week, has been described as creepy and “less than brilliant” by some, whereas others say they’d be fine with it if it was inside the museum rather than lurking on campus. Some said the sculpture reminded them a flasher who hit campus a handful of years back. (More Matelli sleepwalkers here)

The petition, launched by student Zoe Magid, is addressed to Wellesley College President Kim Bottomly and Davis Museum Director Lisa Fischman. It’s titled: Remove the uncomfortable and potentially triggering statue put up without student consent. The petition had about 30 supporters as of Tuesday AM but that had grown to about 250 by Wednesday AM.

Fischman responded to the student criticism here. She wrote that “As the best art does, Tony Matelli’s work provokes dialogue, and discourse is at the core of education. An open written forum went up in the student center this afternoon to consider some relevant questions, and I invite students to stop by and weigh in. We also welcome your responses online.”

Some students protested the sculpture by putting pajamas on him overnight, but the clothes had been removed by sunset. We saw a T-shirt draped on the sculpture Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, Wellesley students, alums and other observers are naturally turning to social media sites with their observations:

Pundits like Michael Graham have also started to weigh in, and publications like Boston Magazine and the Globe have followed up our initial reports.

The artist himself is slated to speak on Wednesday, Feb. 5 at the Davis at 5:30pm to celebrate the exhibit’s opening.