Mark Gilbert – Sept. 2018

Seeing the Patient

Artist’s Statement

As an artist and researcher, I have always aspired to create artworks that authentically illuminate the relationships we all rely on in our lives as patients and caregivers.

Portraiture as an art form and qualitative methodology embraces association rather than separation. It is through the interaction between artist and sitter that access is sought and given, connections made, trust built, intimacy negotiated, stories exchanged, and knowledge constructed. Moreover it has the potential to engender intimate social connections that can empower the sitters, viewers, and artists alike.

The portraits in Seeing the Patient rely on these interactions and the richness of the relationships I witnessed between children and young people living with epilepsy and their families.

Living with epilepsy can be isolating for both patient and their families. This can be compounded by the physical and emotional fatigue and insecurity brought on by  the seizures and the care they require. Yet the time I spent with the families who so generously gave their time was permeated with conversation, laughter, dancing, singing, and sometimes silence, as I drew. At other times there were tears brought on by tiredness and frustration, and then there was the profoundly moving experience of watching the person I was drawing have a seizure and the deep compassion and care of the families as they quietly comforted to their child and held them throughout the process.

I hope that this small community of portraits will offer those who participated and many that did not a platform with to express the challenges and joys of their experience and the richness, resilience, and compassion of the relationships I had the privilege to witness. I am grateful to all of the participants for their support and generosity in time and spirit.

Mark Gilbert PhD.
Research Associate


Mark Gilbert graduated from Glasgow School of Art in 1991. He has exhibited at numerous venues in Europe and North America. In 2002, his life and working practices changed dramatically when The Royal London Hospital, England offered him a post as artist in residence. There he worked in collaboration with maxillofacial surgeon, Prof Iain Hutchison and his patients to create a series of artworks that portrayed the patients as they experienced their illness, surgery and recovery. The resultant exhibition, Saving Faces, was exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery, London. This led to his next study; a two-year residency at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) creating portraits of patients and caregivers.
The exhibition was entitled Here I am and Nowhere Else: Portraits of Care. The study used portraiture to investigate ideas about care and care giving at the intersection of art and medicine.

He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Medical Sciences Interdepartmental Areas, with specialization in Surgery. His doctoral research project, The Experience of Portraiture in a Clinical Setting,used arts-based research methods and narrative inquiry to illuminate the relational skills required in clinical interactions and caregiving. The resultant portraits, depicting participating head and neck cancer patients, are now integrated into a teaching program in the Dept. of Health and Public Services at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, NE. The program utilizes the portraits and their accompanying participant narratives to promote reflection and ethical dialogue for students to incorporate into their care planning assignments. We are currently evaluating educational outcomes of this program to inform and support future curriculum development.

He is currently Research Associate with the Faculty of Medicine here at Dalhousie University. Over the last two years, he has worked on research studies in several different venues across the Maritimes. Working in collaboration with Dr. Wendy Stewart, The Face of Oasis utilizes arts based methodology to give voice to the challenges of youth attending the KV Oasis Youth Center in Quispamsis, NB. The Saint John Regional Hospital Foundation funded this project. Also with Dr. Stewart, Seeing the Patient uses arts based methods and phenomenology to explore the lived experience of children with epilepsy and their caregivers. At Veterans Memorial Hospital, He is currently collaborating with geriatrician,
Dr. Kenneth Rockwood, and geriatric patients in a grant funded study investigating the relationships and interactions of patients and their partners in care through analysis of images and interviews.