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Nearly-Naked Statue Controversy Has Fallen Asleep

Sleepwalker remains on Wellesley College campus.

The Sleepwalker by Tony Matelli at Wellesley College's Davis Museum. Credit: Johanna Harwood on Twitter.
The Sleepwalker by Tony Matelli at Wellesley College's Davis Museum. Credit: Johanna Harwood on Twitter.

The nearly-naked male statue titled “The Sleepwalker” caused quite a stir on the Wellesley College campus earlier this month, but the controversy has gone to sleep.

Three weeks since the life-size statue was installed outside as part of Tony Matelli’s New Gravity exhibit at the Davis Museum, the college has said “The Sleepwalker” will stay put. While students spent the first week of the statue’s appearance on campus posing with it for “selfies,” the Instagram pictures have dried up lately.  

A change.org petition was created to ask the school to move the statue inside the Davis and received 970 signatures. However, Lisa Fischman, the director of the Davis Museum, said on Feb. 4 that the piece would remain for the duration of the Matelli exhibit.

Wellesley College President H. Kim Bottomly followed-up with an internal communication later in the month, according to the Boston Globe, reiterating that the statue would remain on campus and outside the Davis Museum.

On her blog, Bottomly wrote: “I have welcomed the depth of the dialogue and am grateful for the many voices and perspectives that have productively contributed to conversations about art, freedom, censorship, and feminism, to name a few.”

Carol Savage, a Wellesley alumnae who described herself as “disappointed” in the college’s choice, asked Bottomly to consider implementing a policy regarding public art installations for the future.

“I do sympathize with your unfortunate presidential dilemma, and respect that tried your best to lead a balanced conversation, given that you were dealing with an installation already in place,” said Savage. “Wellesley College needs a policy and process on public art installations, which would have provided various stakeholder views and guided university decisions. Such policies are not censorship; they make sense. Please consider creating something of the sort going forward.”

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