A very lifelike sculpture of a nearly nude man, sleepwalking with his bare arms outstretched; eyes closed; has made the students of all girl Wellesley College scream “it’s a man.” These screams are not, however, of delight or even mirth, these outburst are of the panicky variety. The statue, which depicts a sleepwalking, short-haired, male clad only in his Y-fronts was put up as a part of Tony Matelli’s solo art exhibition at the college.
The Brooklyn artist’s exhibit is called New Gravity and the “Sleepwalker” stands at around 5 feet and 9 inches tall and is a mixture of fiberglass, paint and epoxy. The male figure has a little beer belly and its arms are outstretched and eyes closed; the lifelike statue looks like a sleeping zombie out for a snack of brain food. Despite the potential humor behind the statue and its purpose served of evoking a “response,” the students do not like the statue and many have been either scared or “freaked out” by the lifelike sleepwalker.
Students have started a petition to have the statue removed. The petition claims that since the sleepwalker was put up on campus that the female students have viewed the work of art with “fear, apprehension” and are feeling sexually threatened. The document on Change.org states that while the idea may have been humorous in its intent, the reality is that the scantily clad and dumpy fiberglass fellow is causing a lot of stress.
It has been reported that on Tuesday, when the figure first showed up on Wellesley’s all girl college, drivers slammed on brakes and many students rushed to see the new exhibit, many did not rush to get a closer look, but, did an almost cartoon double take at the statue’s humorous intent terrified at the sight of the nearly nude sleepwalker. It sounds like an almost Warner Brothers type of reaction where a cartoon girl’s eyes pop out while screaming, “It’s a man!”
Pictures of the the statue reveal a chap whom no one would look twice at if he were clad in more than his white, sagging, briefs. Balding and sporting a physique that could use a lot of time in the gym; it seems that, perhaps, it is the lack of appeal that makes the sleepwalker so threatening. Had the artist modeled his statue after Channing Tatum, Brad Pitt; although Pitt could also be seen as threatening by benefit of his advanced age he is, after all 50 years-old; or even a sleepwalking, God forbid, Justin Bieber the work of art would most likely not have evoked such a strong emotion as the poor plain and dumpy somnambulistic figure currently on campus.
To be fair, the figure does appear to be amazingly lifelike in photos and according to some Wellesley College students it looks even more real standing next to it. One student, a sophomore, stated that she did not want to get too close to the scantily clad chap. Another girl, freshman Bridget Schreiner, revealed that she “freaked out” when she first saw the sleepwalker, thinking that a real live “nearly nude person” was hanging around the campus center. Bridget, by the way, signed the petition to have the scantily clad plastic man moved indoors.
Looking at pictures of the zombie-like sleepwalker standing calf deep in the snow, his arms, head, and the back of one leg covered with snow, “he” looks more cold than threatening. It does seem that the protests are a little misguided. Granted the sight of a figure looming up in the middle of the night at an all girl college, especially if it’s only wearing underwear, could seem threatening.
At this point in the debate, it looks as though neither side wants to back down. The faculty have stated that they believe the work of art has accomplished just what was expected. The students have asked that the freezing sleepwalker be put inside the museum where students could “enjoy” the exhibit because they want to versus girls getting surprised on the Wellesley College campus. That way, they don’t have to scream that it’s a nearly nude man and feel threatened. Perhaps the next time the Brooklyn artist could render a figure based on Channing Tatum and not “Dumpy Donald.”
By Michael Smith