New art exhibition cultivates the understanding of illness and care

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Kathryn O’Connor
News Editor

“The impact of Mark Gilbert’s portraitures in this exhibit will be reflected through research to evaluate the audience’s response to inform both medical and art education.” Photo courtesy of Mark Gilbert

A new exhibit, “Memory Serves: Drawing Other Close” by Mark Gilbert, featuring a collection of works by him and his father, Norman Gilbert, opened in the Weber Fine Arts Gallery and will be on display until Sept. 29.

Mark Gilbert is known for his talent in portraiture to illuminate the patient and caregiver experience of illness, recovery and care.

On display for the first time, Gilbert’s contribution to the exhibition is work he created two years ago at a veteran’s memorial hospital in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In collaboration with Dr. Kenneth Rockwood, a geriatrician and professor of medicine at Dalhousie University, Gilbert used portraiture to explore the experiences of older adults, most of whom had some form of dementia.

The collection’s been hung side by side with Norman Gilbert’s drawings depicting the end of life titled “Drawing to a Close,” which was completed as his wife and Mark Gilbert’s mother passed away from a stroke.

“It’s a record of a husband and wife, but it’s also the record of a patient and caregiver,” Mark Gilbert said. “We were told she wasn’t going to survive. In that final week of her life, my dad, who was 91-years-old, kept vigil by her bedside day and night. He carried out a series of drawings right up until the moment she died. My mom and dad are no longer with us, but those pictures continue to speak.”

On Sept. 22, a symposium will explore how the arts, humanities and social sciences illuminate the experience of older adults living with dementia as well as the challenges and rewards of caring for them. Dr. Rockwood is among the keynotes presented, along with Hannah Minzloff, a filmmaker who created “Dementia, Dad and Me.”

The impact of Mark Gilbert’s portraitures in this exhibit will be reflected through research to evaluate the audience’s response to inform both medical and art education.

“It’s the notion that the exhibit allows others to be able to engage with the work in such a way that it opens up a space for us to be able to reflect on our own experiences,” Mark Gilbert said.

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