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Cultural references to body parts - everything from songs such as I Want to Hold Your Hand to movies like Footloose - are so prevalent in our society that they often go overlooked. Even in the scriptures references to body parts could seem commonplace: statistically they appear every 4.6 verses. 

A new exhibition at BYU's Education in Zion Gallery in the Joseph F. Smith Building opening Wednesday, November 5, aims to help viewers pause and appreciate the beauty of the body - both inside and out - from a temporal and an eternal perspective. 

The Bodies Filled with Light exhibit features intricate anatomical drawings from the 30th edition of the human anatomy textbook, Gray’s Anatomy of the Human Body, paired with a collection of references to the human body found in various books of scripture.

Beauty of the Body

The coordinated display of anatomical drawing and scripture is intended to not only inspire the viewer with art, but also to help viewers overcome negative cultural perceptions of the body.

“I think in our culture, it’s very easy for us to fall into that shame trap of saying ‘I’m fat’ or ‘I’m not beautiful,'” said Education in Zion Gallery curator Heather Seferovich. “I hope there are people who come to the exhibition that are maybe struggling with that and the exhibition will help them see that the body really is beautiful.”

"I Can't Stop Looking at These Drawings"

The exhibition was conceived from a conversation between Seferovich and Jonathan Wisco, professor of physical and developmental biology. Wisco wanted to integrate the Education in Zion Gallery, which is designed to feature exhibits from all colleges on campus, with his anatomy classes. Wisco suggested the drawings, gifted to him from a professor at UCLA medical school during his time as a professor there, would make an interesting exhibit.

As Seferovich talked to Wisco about the possible exhibit she wanted to find a way to somehow incorporate the Aims of a BYU Education. The solution was to seamlessly and beautifully integrate scripture references to the body with the intricate anatomical drawings from Gray’s Anatomy.

“I’m not an anatomist,” Seferovich said. “But I can’t stop looking at these drawings because they’re so beautiful and intricate.”

The Body, From Head to Foot

The beauty of the individual elements, which was in development for over a year and a half, is amplified by the layout and presentation of the whole exhibit.

The exhibit, which runs through April 30, 2016, prominently features a special collection of the drawings, scriptures and quotes that depict the body of Jesus Christ. A reproduction of the BYU Museum of Art’s Christ Healing the Sick at Bethesda by Carl Bloch will be the focal point of the wall.

“We know Christ has a body, but to see it in this sense, with the face, arms, neck, it adds another dimension that is pretty neat,” Seferovich said.

The main feature of the exhibition are the drawings of the body arranged from head foot. Each of the drawings feature body structures and body systems like the cardiovascular and nervous systems. One aspect of the exhibit will change frequently, featuring different drawings of body systems, which will give patrons a reason to come back.

Though the drawings are in black and white, color plays an important part in the exhibit.

“We’ve used color quite judiciously because we want things to pop and want to draw the eye to specific places,” Seferovich said.

Not Only Beautiful, But Thought Provoking

While the drawings, presentation and layout of the exhibit are beautiful and are a work of art in and of themselves, the purpose of the exhibit includes more than that.

The combination of the intricate drawings and words of scripture is intended to inspire the patrons to ask questions and really think about the relationship of the physical body to the spirit. Questions are included in the exhibit, such as "Why would there be so many references to body parts in the scriptures?" The combination of anatomy with spirituality and the scriptures give students, faculty and anyone a reason to visit the exhibit.

"We hope that people will come in and not only find it beautiful, but thought provoking," Seferovich said. "We think there's a little something here for everybody."

Writer: Nate Depperman