PAUL BUTLER, HOST: Today is September 14th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Paul Butler.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Pro-life art.
At the 1939 World’s Fair in New York, visitors viewed a series of sculptures depicting unborn babies at different stages of development. All summer, people stood lined up for hours just to see the lifelike depictions of unborn life.
BUTLER: This summer, WORLD’s life beat reporter Leah Savas visited a modern-day iteration of that 1939 World’s Fair display. She found it at the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum in Kentucky. Leah now takes us behind the scenes to learn what went into the making of this powerful exhibit.
LEAH SAVAS, REPORTER: In a narrow, dimly lit room, a handful of people crowd around a transparent case. They stare at the glowing objects on display: life-like models of unborn babies at different stages of development.
With the dim lighting and the deep blues and purples in the room, it’s easy to imagine you’re the unborn baby, cozy in your first home.
MEGHAN HEWITT: I don’t know, it almost seemed like it was like a spotlight into the womb.
That’s Meghan Hewitt. She’s a mom of five from Minnesota who visited the Creation Museum with her husband and kids last year. For Meghan, the Fearfully and Wonderfully Made exhibit was the highlight of the museum.
MEGAN HEWITT: I think the mood in there felt pretty solemn almost a little bit, you know, because you realize, like, how precious like even like, the tiniest of those, you know, the models still looks like a baby. And then when we got out, I was just bawling my eyes out.
What brought her to tears was the last display of the exhibit. There she read the testimony from a girl whose parents had chosen life. Doctors had told them to abort because she had a heart defect. They didn’t. Meghan thought of her own daughter, who was born with three heart defects and today is an athletic 15-year-old.
None of the information in the exhibit was new to Meghan. But—
MEGAN HEWITT: I think it was just the whole atmosphere and the way they had it all put together. And then it led up to that. It just made it feel really personal.
What Meghan didn’t see was all the work that went on behind the scenes to create that experience.
HENDERSON: It is kind of one of those things where the whole time, it's painful and stressful.
Doug Henderson is the supervising art director at Answers in Genesis. He’s just one guy on the team that spent weeks—months—bringing this exhibit to life.
Henderson and his wife were a part of the original team that made the Creation Museum back in the early 2000s. Henderson has also sculpted lifelike figures for museums and theme parks like Universal Studios. For this project, bringing the babies to life was a big concern for Henderson.
HENDERSON: I was familiar with the sets of plastic baby development in the womb that you can get. And so I thought, well, we can get those and we can do some tweaks to or maybe give them a better paint job. I didn't know. But I couldn't find any that were really good.
The ones they found just seemed, well, dead. This exhibit was about bringing the babies alive. Henderson and his team had their work cut out for them.
They started by designing digital models that they 3D printed to make molds. Using those molds, they cast the actual baby models they were going to work with.
Then they had to give the models the proper coloring. Henderson painted the oversized baby model.
HENDERSON: And it was really the most nerve-racking and scary thing I've ever done. It works a little bit like watercolor in that you start with the lightest color and you build up layers. And if you mess up on color, you have to start over not with the paint job, you got to start over with the whole thing.
The skin is a creamy tan color, like what you’d see on a lot of humans. But to get that effect, Henderson mixed layers of colors including red, yellow, blue, green, violet, and orange. He painted the veins in a sort of teal color.
To get the realistic hair, the team attached yak and human hairs to the heads of the baby models. They inserted them with needles, one by one.
HENDERSON: And I would estimate about 150,000 hairs were inserted individually over the period of about a week they did that.
Seems like a lot of work for just some fake babies. But Henderson has a theory about art.
HENDERSON: I feel like I’ve developed this understanding that whoever has the best art wins the argument.
He points to the artistic renderings of Lucy, a collection of bones that evolutionists claim as evidence that men descended from apes. The bones themselves aren’t convincing. But different artists have made lifelike models of Lucy, basically putting flesh on her bones to imagine what she may have looked like. Some renditions make people think she must be an early ancestor of humans. But others…
HENDERSON: You'll see some of them are really garbage, like really just awful art. And there was this aha moment for me. Like, wait a minute, the artist is guiding the belief of the viewer.
That’s why Henderson and his team decided to start from scratch with these baby models.
HENDERSON: So if we were to start with the not-so-great models that we talked about earlier, I think that that would pull the person out of the experience. Go, oh, so a baby looks like a hunk of plastic, you know. And so we needed them to be as realistic as possible so that they would not be distracted by poor quality art.
After she left the exhibit bawling last fall, Meghan Hewitt found out that the exhibit had also affected her oldest daughter, Abby. The one who had been born with heart defects, like the girl they read about in the exhibit.
After their visit, Abby told her mom she felt like she should be doing more to defend unborn life.
ABBY HEWITT: I was just I felt really sad for those babies that didn't get a chance to like see life and experience all of the wonderful things that come with it.
Through a friend, Meghan connected with a pro-life lobbyist who eventually called Abby up to testify in front of their state Senate. So in January, the narrative that the team at the Creation Museum had built into the Fearfully and Wonderfully Made exhibit showed up in the Minnesota legislature.
ABBY HEWITT: In 2021, at least 183 babies just like me were aborted in Minnesota. We have the right to live. I'm not a statistic or defined by my heart defect. I am fearfully and wonderfully made, heart defects and all.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Leah Savas in Petersburg, Kentucky.
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