Putto 4 over 4: The Beast of Blaustein

Photo by Hanna Plishtin

by Julia Cristofano

As a new student at Conn trying innocently to navigate my way across campus, I had the unfortunate experience of encountering some of the college’s new sculptural “art.” Searching for Blaustein one afternoon, I looked up from my map only to be confronted by a gigantic, corroded piece of burnt red metal bent in such a way that it looked as if it were about to pounce on an innocent shrub. This was my first run in with Putto 4 over 4.

To begin, the name Putto is misleading because a typical putto is an angelic, pasty looking baby that is frequently found painted on the ceilings of old European churches or in ceramic trinket form on the end tables in your grandmother’s living room. However, instead of being a cute, cuddly baby, Putto 4 over 4 is a headless beast that has some frighteningly realistic infant limbs hanging off it at precarious angles. It is abstract enough so that with a quick glance one might mistake it for a tree of some sort, but on closer inspection, the disturbing baby feet emerging from the crusty torso are enough to make anyone’s stomach turn.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, I discovered the animation that the lovely Putto originated from in the library one morning at 2 AM on my way out after an exhausting night of studying. I had to stifle a scream.

Putto in motion is a much too long video of the creature making choppy, sporadic movements that cause the cadaver-like baby feet it carries overhead to snap at the knee in unnatural and alarming ways. The way the mutant, centipede body swayed back and forth, ready to leap out of the screen, made me take several steps backward. This only deepened the look of disgust on my face. I have since been advising people to focus on the ground when they enter Shain Library until they have safely made it past the foyer.

Despite my initial hatred of Putto I was willing to give the artist, Michael Rees, the benefit of the doubt and consider the possibility that I simply did not understand his artistic vision. So, on Thursday, I attended the artist’s lecture in the Charles Chu Asian Art Reading Room in hopes of gaining a deeper insight into the sculpture. This was not the case. The first thing Mr. Rees told us was that he found it “disquieting” to see Putto 4 over 4 on campus. He continued by saying, “I made it to get it out of myself…[and now] you’re stuck with it!”

By the end of this talk I discovered Michael Rees to be a funny, enthusiastic and intelligent person. He succeeded in making me want to hear more about his artistic career, and perhaps employ him as a comedian at the next Conn event, however he failed to make me think of Putto as anything more then a hostile, partially dead creeper.

Although evocative and stimulating to some, Putto will continue to be the reason that I often choose to walk on the sidewalk next to Branford and Plant rather then endure the eerie eyesore that abuts the pathway in front of Blaustein. Putto 4 over 4 is a grotesque and threatening beast whose sheer mass, much to my chagrin, ensures that it will remain a prominent fixture on campus.