February 14, 2014 Repository 124: Female Students Traumatized by Art | Tony Matelli Posted In: community, contemporary art, exhibition of note, perspective, social critique

Image courtesy Toni Matelli.

Image courtesy Tony Matelli.

Years ago I used to work at an ice cream store right near the Wellesley College Campus, the one and only White Mountain Creamery. There I served countless women their “study break” snacks – enormous amounts of ice cream. So I’ll generalize that Wellesley College girls like their sweet things. A lot.

Currently on campus there is a brilliant sculpture by Tony Matelli titled Sleepwalker. A hyper-realistic sculpture of a frumpy man in his underwear sleepwalking. It’s tender and pathetic, vulnerable and aggresisve all at once. Ergo its brilliance. However the sweet gals of Wellesley are appalled, offended and disgusted by this man who interrupts their campus walks, and perhaps haunts their dreams. But why?

Having made material before in my art work that blend the spicy with the sweet, it became clear to me that viewers who see the spicy and discomfort associate with that because of their own issues. None of the work is ever made out of the thought of terrorizing other people, though people consistently project all kind of derision on works that are made most definitely for other reasons.

Since over 700 students have signed a petition to remove it from the campus, the sculptor has spoken out about his work, which by the way is related to a very interesting solo show also at the Davis Museum on the campus at this time. He says:

“What they see in the sculpture is not in the sculpture…If you have bad feelings toward this and it’s triggering you, you need to seek sympathy, you need to seek help.”

Like Ron Mueck and Patricia Piccini, Matelli’s work is all about reorienting a viewer using hyper-real material and perspective as tools. Isn’t college all about reorienting yourself? Taking the foot off the breaks and revisiting your boundaries? These ladies sound ultra-conservative and narrow-minded, and I remain flummoxed to the real reason why they want this piece out of view. They have even suggested that their feelings are being pushed aside for the sake of discussion about art. My dears, that’s the point – it’s about pitching you out of your comfort zone, and changing your usual.

Brava to the gallery director Lisa Fischman for bringing this artist’s work to the Wellesley College campus, especially Sleepwalker. Can’t the students have fun with this and bring him a parka? He looks so cold in the snow, poor boy.

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  1. Dan Leng • February 17, 2014

    This instantly reminds me of a public sculpture that has been delighting the people of Seattle since 1979. Entitled "Waiting for the Interurban", its a cast aluminum sculpture of six people waiting for thw bus that stands at the main intersection in Fremont...


    The local people often dress the "waiters" in seasonal clothing, put them in party clothes/hats to celebrate birthdays, etc. It's fun, but also an essential part of downtown Fremont in my mind. To me, it actually doesn't really matter what the original intention of the artist was. Because viewers continually interact with it, change it, and let it evolve, it has become something more valuable and well, wonderful. Take note Wellesley students... Think. Participate. Reply

    • mindmarrow • February 18, 2014

      Exactly - participate! Art is only art if it's having a dialog, it's nothing without it. And my goodness a sense of humor and levity are equally important when engaging in the "unknown". Thanks for reading and the comment Dan!! Reply

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