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February 07, 2014 1:00 PM Wellesley College Doesn’t Understand Art

By Daniel Luzer

One statue recently installed at Wellesley College is causing quite an uproar. Art often makes people uncomfortable, of course, but this is something new. The statue isn’t controversial people it offends people’s religious sensibility or political inclinations or understanding of the social structure of the United States. No, people just don’t like this one because it’s, well, sort of gross.

According to Wellesley, the offending installation, Tony Matelli’s Sleepwalker, is part of exhibit going on inside the school’s art museum:

We placed the Sleepwalker on the roadside just beyond the Davis to connect the exhibition — within the museum — to the campus world beyond,” [museum’s director Lisa Fischman explained]. 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).

That’s all very nice, except the sculpture looks like this:

wellesley

Right. Almost naked dude standing zombie-like outside in the snow. On an all-women’s campus.

According to a petition by students to get the piece removed:

[T]his highly lifelike sculpture has, within just a few hours of its outdoor installation, become a source of apprehension, fear, and triggering thoughts regarding sexual assault for many members of our campus community. 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.

Sleepwalker is admittedly pretty unsettling, but come on, art is supposed to make the viewer feel uncomfortable. The fact that it triggers “thoughts regarding sexual assault” is not a valid reason to remove the piece.

Let’s just hope they never stumble upon Peter Paul Rubens’s Rape of the Sabine Women.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer

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