“Here I am and Nowhere Else: Portraits of Care” was a two-year study that Mark Gilbert conducted with the collaboration and co-operation of University of Nebraska Medical Center. The study used portraiture to investigate ideas about care and care giving at the intersection of art and medicine.
26 patients and 20 caregivers participated as subjects for the study. Patient subjects were drawn from across the lifespan and included both healthy and ill patients. Caregiver subjects included professional and familial caregivers. Gilbert drew or painted 100 portraits during the two-year study.
A multi-disciplinary analysis team was formed, made up of Drs. Virginia Aita and William Lydiatt, other UNMC faculty and artists. The team analyzed the portraits and subject data. Findings from their qualitative analysis were used to develop a quantitative survey and qualitative journal tool that the public used to give feedback at the subsequent exhibition.
Patients appear as "whole people" in their portraits, not defined or fragmented by diagnosis. Caregivers’ portraits reveal their commitment to care. There is also a sense of mutuality and fluidity in the background stories of subjects. Many patients have been caregivers and, at times, caregivers are also patients.
Public data emphasized the identity transformation of subjects, the centrality of the idea of mortality, the presence of hope despite adversity, and the importance of empathy and compassion in care. The relationship Gilbert was able to develop with all subjects naturally informed and augmented the portraits.
The paintings remain together as a collection and are not for sale. The collection is, however, available for exhibition and as a research resource. For inquiries, please contact Mark or Dr. Virginia Aita at UNMC.
All aspects of the study were approved by the UNMC Institutional Review Board. All subjects have given their informed consent for the study and the subsequent exhibition of artwork.