London show explores skin as human body's frontier

Fri Aug 13, 2010 6:24am EDT
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By Isabel Coles

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - "Visitors may find some images in this exhibition disturbing," reads a sign at the entrance to the Wellcome Collection's latest exhibition: "Skin."

"Skin" tracks attitudes toward the human body's largest organ since the 15th century from scientific, artistic and historical perspectives.

The exhibition is divided into four parts: objects, marks, impressions, and after-life. There is also a Skin Lab, which looks at recent developments in skin science.

A black and white photograph of a patient in a Parisian hospital is the first piece in the exhibition. Running the length of the patient's back is a giant scar.

"This photograph sums up a lot of the underlying themes in the exhibition, first and foremost the exploration of skin as a physical and metaphorical frontier between the inside and outside of the body," co-curator of the exhibition Lucy Shanahan told Reuters.

"Another thing that recurs throughout the exhibition is this strange paradox between something horrific and something beautiful," she added.

For early modern anatomists, skin was superfluous. Figures in 16th century anatomical diagrams were drawn without skin, or participating in the removal of their own skin, as if undressing.

"The illustrations were obviously intended for medical purposes, and yet they have this incredible artistry to them," said Shanahan.   Continued...