Now, folks with hardy constitutions don't have to make a trip to the East Coast to see such curiosities: Worden's full-color coffee-table book, Mütter Museum, published by Blast Books, is the next best thing. Culled from seven years of the museum's controversial fine-art calendar plus arresting historical photos from its archives, the monograph includes the work of such renowned photographers as Steven Katzman, Rosamond Purcell, and William Wegman. Particularly striking are Katzman's snapshot of a skull showing the nerves and arteries along with dried dahlias and Wegman's portrait of his Weimaraner Chip with a model of a typhus-ridden foot and ankle. The book makes a strong argument that what's in this museum is truly art. The meticulously prepared dried dissections and papier-mâché models reveal exquisite handiwork. And beyond the shock value and novelty of the subject lies an important message: We're all at the mercy of Mother Nature's whims.
The human body, in all its glory, has a place in most every art museum. But the photographers and visitors who return to the Mütter aren't interested in superficial appearances; they find the deeper beauty that goes hand in hand with the apparent gore. "In most museums you go to look at objects. In the Mütter Museum, sometimes the objects seem to be looking at you," writes Worden in the book's preface. "And, sometimes, the objects seem to be you."