UNO professor shows the healing power of art
For more than 20 years, he turned patients into people we could come to know in a gallery one day.
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - One man’s passion for helping the rest of us better understand the toll of Alzheimer’s. The artist’s father helped with the project in ways even he didn’t know.
Sometimes art can be its own therapy.
“We all bring our own experiences to art.”
Mark Gilbert grew up in Scotland, the son of two artists who met at art school. Some would say the career picked him.
“Each portrait testifies to a relationship.”
For more than 20 years, he turned patients into people we could come to know in a gallery one day. Portraits of Care he called it.
“We’re all going to be patients and caregivers in our lives.”
Compassion first poured through his pencil, turning private moments into something social. His latest passion is on display at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, people challenged by dementia.
“What does it mean to take care of each other?”
Mark Gilbert asked if he could get to know them and share the results with the world.
“This is Brian and Lindsey.”
The impact of the disease on the subject and caregivers, nurses, and social workers. Uncertainty circles a world where we often avoid end-of-life conversations.
As this artist and now UNO professor worked with his subjects an Alzheimer-related stroke left his mother with just days to live.
“He started by just drawing her hands.”
His father took vigil by her bedside.
“He said by doing the drawings, it helped him forget what was happening.”
Drawing out of necessity.
“He was able to articulate what he was seeing and feeling.”
Mark Gilbert understood they, too, told a story.
“Those drawings have taught me more about the healing power of art than anything else I’ve ever done. And as a son, it allowed me to picture what happened that week. And for that, I’m incredibly grateful.”
That’s the power of the display, what he sees may be different for someone else.
“For the first time, his art was overlapping with my art.”
One thing is certain.
“The drawings continue to be a part of my healing process.”
For those who engage in the lives behind the glass, it’s often an invitation to reflect on their own experiences.
The pandemic delayed the release of this exhibit. Most of the participants are from Canada.
Mark Gilbert, who teaches art at UNO now, hopes to share the portraits there soon.
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