Sleepwalker Wreaks Havoc at Lady College

​When I think "Woman's College" the first and second thoughts that come to mind are armpit hair and the sweet, sweet smell of patchouli oil. I also imagine quarterly craft bazaars that feature several feminist poetry zines and homemade jewelry, both of which celebrate the power of Mother-Goddess Vulva. One thing I don't picture though, is a balding middle aged man, sleep-walking outdoors in his skivvies. But just because I couldn't imagine it, doesn't mean Sculptor Tony Matelli can't.

Matelli's piece, "Sleepwalker" is being featured as a part of the "Gravity" exhibit  at the college's Davis Museum. Since the installation went up in early February, there has been an outcry amongst ladies of Wellesley College in Massachusetts, as petition to remove the piece has been started on Change.org by the humorless--probably Ani DeFranco-loving Zoe Magid.

“While it may appear humorous, or thought-provoking to some, it has already become a source of undue stress for many Wellesley College students, the majority of whom live, study, and work in this space.”

                   - Zoe Magid

Lisa Fischman, Director at the Davis Museum on the Wellesley Campus wrote the following in defense of the statue:

Dear all,

Thank you for your engagement and for your thoughtful response to Tony Matelli's Sleepwalker, which was installed this afternoon on the Wellesley campus. Art has an extraordinary power to evoke personal response, and to elicit the unexpected. We placed the Sleepwalker on the roadside just beyond the Davis to connect the exhibition -- within the museum -- to the campus world beyond. 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). 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.

Matelli's Sleepwalker -- considered up close -- is a man in deep sleep. Arms outstretched, eyes closed, he appears vulnerable and unaware against the snowy backdrop of the space around him. He is not naked. He is profoundly passive. He is inert, as sculpture. But he does inspire narrative. He appears to have drifted away from wherever he belongs and one wonder why; one wonders also how he has gotten so lost, so off course. He is a figure of pathos, and one that warrants measured consideration. Perhaps he carries metaphorical weight.

Art provokes dialogue, and discourse is the core of education. In that spirit, I am enormously glad to have your response. Respectfully yours,

Lisa Fischman

Ruth Gordon Shapiro '37 Director

Davis Museum at Wellesley College

Wellesley professor Fani Ntavelou-Baum wrote the following in regard to the (now more than 800-times-signed) petition:

I find what a student mentioned in one of my classes to be very true: "In Wellesley you somehow have a position of power if you are the most offended person in the room".

The "Sleepwalker" is yet to be removed and looks to stay put for the time being. The exhibit closes on May 11th.