BODIES: The Exhibit

I am looking forward to attending the incredible BODIES The Exhibition. BODIES is an exhibition of human bodies that have been dissected, preserved, and posed to demonstrate our architecture. Displays feature everything from a skeleton posed in opposition to the same body’s musculature to an intact and isolated central nervous system to an emphysema-diseased lung.

Who would be interested in such a show? Anyone interested in medicine, anatomy, figurative art, science, biology, or just curiousity about us. In short, who wouldn’t be interested?

The exhibit is fascinating many people, offending others (this is Seattle, after all), and horrifying most everyone else. I don’t understand the squeamish distaste and would do a disservice to the opinion if I tried to explain it. In any case, the show doesn’t feature any gore.

The protestors are upset because the bodies are Chinese, and the Chinese government has a woeful human rights record, or so goes the argument. Granting the human rights record, there is no evidence that the bodies were prisoners, much less that murder was done. So, that’s just silly.

My interest is in the way the skeleton and muscules inform figure drawing. My drawing was so-so until I took a class with Joan Boyden, a one-time fellow student and favorite artist. Joan stressed anatomy and had us drawing the skeleton. It wasn’t enough that we drew it, we also had to learn the bones (the major ones, anyway) and how they worked together to make us go. Joan had us learn how the muscles and tendons were attached, which muscles were surficial and thus would influence what a draughtsman sees. Joan’s approach taught me to love figure drawing and left me with a deep and ongoing interest in anatomy.

One can see the difference studying anatomy makes by comparing Greek and Roman figures. The Greeks didn’t dissect humans (they did dissect other animals, however). Even if one’s style is abstract, understanding anatomy helps one construct an internally consistent reality.

Even if you’re not an artist or in the medical field, you might consider going. It will fill one with wonder to see a profoundly intimate, yet unfamilar view of ourselves.

How about you? How do you feel about contemplating what lies beneath the skin?


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