Tony Matelli, Sleepwalker, 2014.
Tony Matelli

Art has an extraordinary power to evoke personal response, and to elicit the unexpected. We placed Tony Matelli’s new hyper-realistic sculpture, Sleepwalker, on the roadside just beyond the Davis to connect the exhibition— Tony Matelli: New Gravity, on view within the museum— to the campus world beyond our walls.

Matelli's Sleepwalker—considered up close—is a man in deep sleep. Arms outstretched, eyes closed, he appears vulnerable and unaware against the snowy backdrop of the space around him. He is not naked. He is profoundly passive. 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.

Tony Matelli’s work upends expectations, challenges and calls perception into question. I urge you to come and see it for yourself! See Sleepwalker in person! View the entirety of New Gravity in the Davis galleries!

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). Reaction to the Sleepwalker’s presence has been varied. I have watched from the 5th floor windows, and on the ground, as students stop to interact playfully with the sculpture. They take selfies with him, snap pics with their phones, and gather to look at this new figure on the Wellesley landscape—even in the snow. I have also heard the opinions of others who find the sculpture troubling.

As the best art does, Tony Matelli’s work provokes dialogue, and discourse is at the core of education. An open written forum went up in the student center this afternoon to consider some relevant questions, and I invite students to stop by and weigh in. We also welcome your responses online.

- Lisa Fischman, Ruth Gordon Shapiro ’37 Director of the Davis.