Zoe Magid, a junior at Wellesley, started a Change.org petition demanding the statue be removed from campus because many found it disturbing.
"The statue of the nearly naked man on the Wellesley College campus is an entirely inappropriate and potentially harmful addition to our community that we, as members of the student body, would like removed immediately," the petition reads. "[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."
The petition had 319 signatures as of early Wednesday afternoon.
Contacted by the Washington Post on Wednesday afternoon, Matelli, a Brooklyn-based sculptor, said his work was "about being lost."
“It can mean many things. I mean, art is open. Each person comes to an artwork with their own history, their own politics, their own hopes and fears and all that stuff,” he told the Post. “To me, it’s a sculpture about being lost. It’s about being displaced. It’s literally being about asleep at the wheel.”
With respect to his choice of attire for the man, Matelli said it just made sense.
“It just seemed like a natural thing for him to get out of bed in. So, narratively it works,” he said. “The tighty-whites are — in and of themselves — kind of iconic.”
Davis Museum director Lisa Fischman defended the statue's placement on campus.
"We placed the Sleepwalker on the roadside just beyond the Davis to connect the exhibition -- within the museum -- to the campus world beyond," she wrote on the school's website. "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)."