The lifelike sculpture, which is part of Matelli's show, New Gravity, depicts a nearly naked man walking with his eyes closed and his arms outstretched near a busy area of the school.
Some Wellesley students have signed a Change.org petition asking school President H. Kim Bottomly to remove the work, calling it "an inappropriate and potentially harmful addition to our community."
"It has become a source of apprehension, fear, and triggering thoughts regarding sexual assault for some members of our campus community," the petition reads. "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."
Lisa Fischman, director of the on-campus museum housing Matelli's exhibition, stood by the statue as an example of the "best" kind of art.
"Reaction to the 'Sleepwalker’s presence has been varied," she wrote. "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," she said in a statement. "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."
Matelli himself seemed happy with the attention.
“I was talking with the curator of the exhibition and my assistant this morning, and we were saying, ‘When was the last time a work of art was talked about so much and got so much attention?’ ” he told the Boston Globe.