Saving Faces

Surgeon Iain Hutchison hired artist Mark Gilbert to paint his patients before and after facial reconstruction to help them heal, inside and out.


If the eyes are the windows to the soul, then the face is the gateway to our entire emotional being. So what happens to an individual’s self-image and social behavior when his or her face becomes disfigured? Dr. Iain Hutchison is a British facial reconstruction surgeon who operates on patients whose faces have been severely altered by disease, car accidents, gunshot wounds, and other traumas. Hutchison believes his job goes beyond merely repairing people’s skin and muscles: he strives to help patients rebuild and reconstruct their confidence, strength of spirit, and self-perception. That’s why he took the unorthodox initiative to start the Saving Faces art project, for which he hired painter Mark Gilbert, who is now artist-in-residence at St. Bartholomew’s and the Royal London Hospital, the two places where Hutchison practices. Gilbert paints individuals before, during, and after their treatment. The portraits are stunning works of art, and the artistic process provides a cathartic experience for the patients, who often confide in Gilbert about their traumatic experiences and the recovery process. For Hutchison, the paintings have become as important a medical tool as the scalpel and suture.

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