Everywhere Body Worlds goes, people debate the ethics of plasticizing and displaying human bodies. Is it a sideshow, or is it education? As was the case with Body Worlds 3 at the Saint Louis Science Center, the curiosity factor wins. Thousands of people stroll past the flayed corpses displayed in acrobatic poses. They learn a little anatomy, a little history, a little philosophy. Mostly, they gawk. (Not that we at RFT, or the adult entertainment advertisers who help subsidize our little corner of the blogosphere, have anything against gawking.)
The artists reveled in the rare confluence of events. Here are some of their comments:
Landscape painter Billyo O’Donnell also focused on the live models. Pointing at the curve of a hamstring with his brush, he says the plasticized bodies are a visual aid. “How often do you have reference material like this to look at?”
John Nickolai, a theology student and hobby artist, seated himself in front of the model who took the dignified pose of the Torchbearer. Nickolai says he has to write a paper about the exhibit, which closes March 2, for a class called Philosophy of Human Nature. “This exhibit has been a topic of some debate among my brother seminarians,” says Nickolai, who attends Kenrick-Glennon Catholic Seminary. Though he arrived with some trepidation, he says, “I don’t get the impression this is a circus or a freak show. It appears to be thoughtfully done.”
By coincidence, Nickolai is seated beneath this quote from St. Augustine, who lived from 354 to 430 A.D.:
The arrangement of the body is so well-proportioned, the symmetry of its parts so beautiful that it can be doubted whether at its creation utility was more of a determining factor than beauty.