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Program is a touching tribute to ‘Skin’

Times Staff Writer

Spencer Tunick is realistic about his ultimate goal in life: “I shouldn’t be so confident that I can get the entire country naked,” he says with a shrug.

The photographer has become well known for organizing dozens to thousands of nude volunteers into “performances” in which they are grouped together, usually prone, to form a new shape; his photos are records of these events.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. Nov. 14, 2002 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday November 14, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 13 inches; 496 words Type of Material: Correction
TV review -- A review of the PBS program “Skin” in Wednesday’s Calendar mistakenly referred to skin as “our epidural layer.” The correct word is epidermal.

Tunick is the perfect protagonist for tonight’s PBS program “Skin” (8 p.m., KCET, KVCR), which celebrates and demystifies something we go to such great lengths to cover up and expose at the same time.

Like skin itself, the National Geographic special is slick, smooth, colorful and coated with a tantalizing layer of sweat. Its first-rate animation and micro-photography get under our skin and into the blood vessels, fibers, sweat glands and nerves that constitute the cell-making factories for our epidural layer.

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There is more than a little nudity in “Skin.” Mostly, it’s Tunick’s naked volunteers -- strewn at various angles to each other for his portraits. But interestingly, the strongest hint of sex comes not in views of the complete human form, but in the extreme close-ups of fingertips, chins and arms glistening with sweat.

It is touch that conveys perhaps the most important tribute to the power of skin. At Miami’s Jackson Hospital, Dr. Tiffany Field reports stunning evidence that babies need to be touched and held in order to thrive, perhaps even to survive. She found that premature babies gain 49% more weight and go home six days earlier when they are massaged by elderly volunteers than babies who are not touched and held. Moreover, the volunteers themselves also benefited. They reported less depression and fewer doctor’s visits than before they became masseuses.


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