UN teacher shows the healing power of art

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – One man’s passion for helping the rest of us better understand the toll of Alzheimer’s disease. The artist’s father contributed to the project in a way that he himself was unaware of.

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 chose him.

“Each portrait bears witness to a relationship.”

For over 20 years, he transformed patients into people we might one day know in a gallery. Portraits of Care, he called it.

“We are all going to be patients and caregivers in our lives.”

Compassion first flowed through his pencil, turning private moments into something social. His latest passion is on display at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, people with dementia.

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Mark Gilbert asked if he could get to know them and share the results with the world.

“Here are Brian and Lindsey.”

The impact of the disease on the subject and the caregivers, nurses and social workers. Uncertainty surrounds a world where we often avoid end-of-life conversations.

While this artist and now professor at the UN worked with his subjects, a stroke related to Alzheimer’s disease left his mother only days to live.

“He started by just drawing his hands.”

Her father watched over her.

“He said doing the drawings helped him forget what was going on.”

Draw out of necessity.

“He was able to express what he saw and felt.”

Mark Gilbert understood that they too were telling a story.

“These drawings taught me more about the healing power of art than anything I have ever done. And as a son, it allowed me to imagine what happened that week. And for that, I am incredibly grateful.

That’s the power of display, what he sees may be different to someone else.

“For the first time, his art overlapped with my art.”

One thing is certain.

“Drawings continue to be part of my healing process.”

For those who engage in life behind the glass, it is often an invitation to reflect on their own experiences.

The pandemic has delayed the release of this exhibition. Most of the participants come from Canada.

Mark Gilbert, who now teaches art at the UN, hopes to share the portraits there soon.

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