Bizarre Sculpture Sparks Controversy at Wellesley

A strange new art exhibited at Wellesley College is turning heads.

Students at Wellesley College, an all-women’s school in Wellesley, Massachusetts, are scratching their heads over a new art exhibit that has spilled out of the school’s Davis Museum and onto the side of the road. Called Sleepwalker, the sculpture was created by artist Tony Matellli and depicts a sleeping man dressed only in his underwear. The lifelike sculpture’s risqué fashion sense—combined with the fact that it’s installed on a stretch of road that hundreds of students walk and drive on each day—has drawn mixed reactions.

Tony Matelli, Sleepwalker, 2014.
Photo from The Davis Museum at Wellesley College

Some students have found it amusing, some think it would be less jarring if it was moved indoors, and others have found it creepy at best and terrifying at worst. One student even launched a petition on, calling on Wellesley’s president to “remove the uncomfortable and potentially triggering statue put up without student consent.” The Swellesley Report noted that other students had protested by putting pajamas on the sculpture.

Photo by Alex Lee
Photo from

Lisa Fischman, director of the Davis Museum, explained the sculpture’s message and the purpose of its outdoor placement on Wellesley’s website.

“He is inert, as sculpture. But he does inspire narrative. He appears to have drifted away from wherever he belongs and one wonders why; one wonders also how he has gotten so lost, so off course. He is a figure of pathos, and one that warrants our measured consideration. Perhaps he carries metaphorical weight.”

Fischman also notes that “art has an extraordinary power to evoke personal response, and to elicit the unexpected.”

For students at Wellesley, the scantily-clad sculpture is certainly unexpected, and if that is the goal of art, then perhaps the artist has achieved some degree of success.

Tony Matelli: New Gravity is on exhibit at Wellesley from February 5 through May 11, and so far, the school has not moved the conversation-starting sculpture indoors.

What do you think of the sculpture? What is the goal of art, and does the sculpture fulfill that goal? If something similar were installed at your school, what would your reaction be?

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

art sculpture Wellesley College

About Stephanie Farah

Stephanie Farah

Stephanie Farah is a former writer and senior editor for Carnegie and CollegeXpress. She holds a BA in English from the University of Texas at Austin and a master's in Journalism from the University of North Texas. At various times, she has been an uncertain undergrad, a financial aid recipient, a transfer applicant, and a grad student with an assistantship and a full ride. Stephanie is an avid writer, traveler, cook, and dog owner. 


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Brooke Maggio

Brooke Maggio

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has helped me tremendously in my college search in narrowing down the schools I’m interested in. Using the college search tool, I was able to narrow down my choices to schools that matched what I was looking for. I also used CollegeXpress for their scholarship search, which helped me find scholarships that I meet the requirements of.

Bri'Yana Brown-Dunn

Bri'Yana Brown-Dunn

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress helped me gain interest in many colleges/universities and many scholarships. I would say the most helpful thing CollegeXpress has done for me is sending me emails that tell me certain types of colleges are interested in me as well as emails about scholarships that I can look at and possibly apply for.

Hannah Nelsen

Hannah Nelsen

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has helped me look at colleges that fit my interests by taking my profile and matching it to colleges that have the programs I'm looking for. It has the ability to connect me to colleges so I can be contacted by them and look at them more in-depth to find what's right for me. Additionally, the scholarship database is super beneficial for getting scholarships for college. Not only does it help lift the financial burden of college but it shows all the opportunities available. Overall, CollegeXpress has been very helpful to me.

Tariq Adam Khatib

Tariq Adam Khatib

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress helped me a lot. I am a Tanzania boy who finished my high school studies in Tanzania. I never knew I could get an opportunity to get a scholarship to study abroad. I am happy that now I know how to find the school to study abroad through CollegeXpress.

Nikole Dixon

Nikole Dixon

$500 Refer-A-Friend Scholarship Winner

Towards the beginning of last year, I was searching for scholarships to apply to through my school, town, websites online, and anything else I could find. I asked tons of questions [online] about scholarships and the best places to find them because I was desperate and I needed as many as I could find. I came across a ton of bogus websites but as soon as I found CollegeXpress, I knew I had to tell other people about it. It was definitely the most helpful site I came across, so I told my friends about it. . . . CollegeXpress is definitely a website worth giving as a source.

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Emerson College

Boston, MA

Albright College

Reading, PA

Dean College

Franklin, MA

Thiel College

Greenville, PA