A sculpture of a half-naked, sleep-walking man in the middle of a college campus has drawn hundreds of complaints from students.
The artwork, simply named 'Sleepwalker' by sculptor Tony Matelli, appeared outside Wellesley College - an all-women's institution - in Boston, Massachusetts earlier this week. It had originally appeared in Matelli's exhibition at the college's Davis Museum.
The lifelike statue is of a man standing in his underwear with his arms outstretched in a zombie-like stance. It has provoked a strong response from the students, with a petition demanding it be removed from public view attracting more than 500 signatures.
"I honestly didn't even want to get too close to him," Wellesley College student Laura Mayron told the Boston Globe. "It's odd."
Posted by Zoe Magid, a political science student, the petition reads: "The sculpture of the nearly naked man on the Wellesley College campus is an inappropriate and potentially harmful addition to our community that we, as members of the student body, would like removed from outdoor space immediately, and placed inside the Davis Museum. There, students may see the installation of their own volition.
"The highly lifelike sculpture has become a source of apprehension, fear, and triggering thoughts regarding sexual assault for some members of our campus community. While it may appear humorous, or thought provoking to some, the “Sleepwalker” has already become a source of undue stress for a number of Wellesley College students, the majority of whom live, study, and work on campus."
"We ask that in the future, the Davis Museum and the College notify us before displaying public art, especially if it is of a particularly shocking or sensitive nature."
Despite the students' best efforts to convince them to move the statue, Davis Museum president Kim Bottomly and director Lisa Fischman dismissed the negative comments about the controversial sculpture, insisting it was placed outside to "to connect the exhibition to the campus world beyond our walls".
"[The sculpture] has started an impassioned conversation about art, gender, sexuality and individual experience, both on campus and on social media," the pair said in a joint statement.
"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."
After hearing of their response, Miss Magid was unimpressed with the lack of action. She added: "We were really disappointed that she seemed to articulate that she was glad it was starting discussion, but didn’t respond to the fact that it's making students on campus feel unsafe, which is not appropriate.
"We really feel that if a piece of art makes students feel unsafe, that steps over a line."