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Man in Undies Sculpture at Wellesly College Stirs Up Controversy

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First Posted: Feb 06, 2014 11:33 AM EST
Wellesley College
"Sleepwalker" Sculpture (Photo : reuters.com)

Wellesley College, a prestigious all women's school in Massachusetts, has a new sculpture on campus that's causing quite the stir. "Sleepwalker" is part of an exhibit by sculptor Tony Matelli at the college's Davis Museum. The exhibit officially opens Thursday and closes on Jul. 20.

The sculpture of a man with his eyes closed, in a zombie-like trance and in his white "tighty whities" has made students uncomfortable enough to start a petition to make the artwork disappear. The "Sleepwalker." as the sculpture was named, was put right in the middle of a busy part of the campus in Wellesley College. Students argue that the nearly naked man is a "source of apprehension, fear, and triggering thoughts regarding sexual assault."

The president of the school President H. Kim Bottomly says that the very realistic looking sculpture is part of the intellectual process. "The very best works of art have the power to stimulate deeply personal emotions and to provoke unexpected new ideas, and this sculpture is no exception," said museum Director Lisa Fischman in a joint statement with Bottomly. The art piece "has started an imapassioned conversation about art, gender, sexuality and individual experience, both on campus and on social media".

"Sleepwalker" was strategically placed out doors to stimulate thought. "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)," Fischman wrote. Freshman Bridget Schreiner told The Boston Globe she was "freaked out" the first time she saw the sculpture, thinking for a moment that a real, almost naked man was lingering on campus. "This could be a trigger for students who have experienced sexual assault," Schreiner said.

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The sculpture has remained on campus thus far, giving the all women's school a clue as to what to expect from the actual exhibit. "I find it disturbing, but in a good way," English professor Sarah Wall-Randell said. "I think it's meant to be off-putting. It's a schlumpy guy in underpants in an all-women environment". Hmm, seems like the "drama" was surely expected from the very beginning, mission accomplished.

What do you think about this sculpture? Click here to see it.

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