Mark Gilbert shares expertise with Aesthetics of Health class

December 14, 2016

During the last week of November, students in the Aesthetics of Health class were joined by guest artist Mark Gilbert. Gilbert began painting clinical portraits in 2001, when maxillofacial surgeon Iain Hutchison invited him to portray his patients. What began as a statement of the efficacy of facial reconstructive surgery became Gilbert’s passion.

Since then, Gilbert has continued to study the relationship of art and medicine and to paint portraits of medical patients. In 2014, Gilbert was awarded his Ph.D in Medical Sciences Interdepartmental Area (MSIA) program at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

“It takes a good deal of courage, at the best of times, to have your portrait painted,” he told the students during his opening lecture. Gilbert spent a full week at Interlochen, teaching workshops and giving lectures in both art and biology classes. Gilbert also joined the Aesthetics of Health class on their most recent visit to the Cowell Family Cancer Center. Before the visit, he offered a few words of advice from his own experience. “We’re all going to be patients and caregivers at some point in our lives,” he said. “It’s a truism that we all have to embrace, and it’s not necessarily a negative thing.”

Gilbert also reminded the students of the powerful impact that their art can have both on patients and on their audiences. “Paintings allow people to work their way in,” he said. “It’s a very accessible way of communicating something inaccessible.”