Body Worlds 3 gets under people’s skin
For those who harbor fond memories of anatomy class or field trips to the cadaver lab, "Body Worlds 3" will bring back a fervor for learning seldom experienced beyond one’s years of schooling. Even for those who don’t feel particularly drawn toward medical marvels and anatomical wonders, the current exhibition at the Leonardo in Salt Lake City is bound to intrigue and enlighten.
"Body Worlds 3 & The Story of the Heart" features more than 200 authentic specimens that have undergone Plastination, a method of halting decomposition and preserving specimens for medical study. The process, invented in 1977 by Dr. Gunther von Hagens, involves replacing bodily fluids and fat with reactive plastics and then curing the body for rigidity and permanence. The result is human and animal bodies that look as though they have been stripped of their skin, exposing the intricate network of muscles, tendons and blood vessels underneath. The bodies come from consenting donors for the express purpose of educating future generations.
Upon entering the exhibit at The Leonardo, visitors are transmitted into a realm of the surreal a black box space with lights zeroing in on life-size bodies posed in dynamic positions, glass cases housing individual bone structures and organs, and series of slides displaying translucent slices of the brain and other organs. Large wall hangings provide quotes, facts and interesting tidbits to accompany sectors of the exhibition.
The exhibit is organized according to the major systems of the body, including the nervous, reproductive and cardiovascular systems. It places special emphasis on the form and function of the heart, presenting both human and animal hearts, cross-sections of the aorta and heart chambers, and medical advances such as the pacemaker, aortic stent graft and artificial heart.
From an infant skull, plates not yet fused together, to a severely deformed spinal column, "Body Worlds 3" explores every facet of what lies beneath the skin. Several of the plastinates are divided into thick slices, laterally expanded or altered so that their organs are positioned in full view. "We have strived to present the body in all its beauty, glory and complexity," said Dr. Angelina Whalley, creative designer and conceptual planner of the exhibition.
Among the impressive collection of whole body plastinates are a hurdler frozen in midair, a trapeze artist hanging by her feet — internal organs clearly visible through her opened abdominal cavity — and an enormous camel with its three stomachs and digestive system exposed through a gaping hole in its side. A horizontally-suspended body, devoid of bones and tissue, shows the intricate and complex configuration of blood vessels and arteries. According to Whalley, it takes approximately 1,500 hours, or over one year of work, to prepare, plastinate and pose each specimen.
An embryonic development display shows the stages of fetal growth, from something resembling a sea monkey at six weeks to a fully-developed, miniature human on the verge of leaving the womb.
Another focus of the exhibition is the detrimental effects of disease, cancer and unhealthy habits on the body. A healthy hip joint is juxtaposed next to one with congenital hip dysplasia, another with severe arthritis and an artificial hip. A lung blackened with tar deposits is disconcerting enough to make any smoker reconsider their habit of lighting up.
The exhibit should appeal to anyone with a thirst for knowledge of how the body works. Visitors young and old will invigorate their sense of curiosity and realize that the beauty of the human body is more than skin-deep. "We believe Body Worlds visitors will leave inspired with a greater appreciation and respect for their bodies," says Dee Brewer, assistant vice president of marketing for University Health Care, the exhibit’s presenting partner.
A note of caution: This exhibit may not be appropriate for young children. The plastinates have distinct facial expressions and their eyes and genitals are rendered intact which some visitors have found to be grotesque and perturbing.
Salt Lake City is the 47th city that "Body Worlds 3" has visited. In 10 years of touring, the exhibit has been seen by more than 25 million visitors in 45 countries. The exhibition is on display at The Leonardo, 209 East 500 South in Salt Lake City’s Library Square, through mid-January. Tickets are $22 for adults ages 19-64; $19.50 for seniors 65+ and students with ID; $16 for children 3-18. Special rates are available for schools and other groups of 12 or more. Please visit http://www.theleonardo.org or http://www.bodyworlds.com for more information.
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