Artist perseveres following brain injury
MIDDLEBURY — In 1996, Robert Gold was blind sided by oncoming pickup truck as he sat at an intersection in Manchester, N.H. The accident left him with traumatic brain injuries that ended his lucrative dental practice and drove friends and family away.
But the accident gave Gold, now a Middlebury resident, a second life as a self-taught artist. Although he can no longer wield the tools of his former trade, Gold has turned to a vocation where he combines photography and painting to create works of beauty in a unique style.
In his first life, Gold studied at the New York University School of Dentistry and was a clinical assistant in prosthetic dentistry at Harvard University. At the time of the car accident, Gold had run a successfully private practice since 1973.
“I lost the whole shebang,” said Gold. “But this has made me more humble, and I’m actually happier now than when I was as a dentist.”
Gold developed his own technique for crafting art. He starts with a digital photograph, uploads it to a refurbished Macintosh he bought for $350 three years ago and alters it using Photoshop software. After printing the photo on a 100-pound Epson printer, Gold embellishes his work with acrylic paint.
Gold’s art room in his house on Court Street is a microcosm of his life, a confusing assortment of bright colors on canvases large and small. On a recent morning he was sprawled on the floor, adding the finishing touches to a bright painting of a pair of Asics running shoes while a small painting for Vermont rock musician George Nordstom’s album cover sat on an easel in the background.
The only vestige of his past profession is a pair of neurosurgical glasses that sport a one-inch magnifying lens mounted in front of each eye. The glasses allow Gold to add minute details to his artwork.
The accident left Gold unable to read and write fluently. But he said his inability to read or write fluently helped create a style all his own.
“I couldn’t read the directions so I started trial and error and developed this technique,” he said.
Gold’s hands have begun to shake uncontrollably in the past few years — a condition possibly devastating for a detail artist — but he has used the disability to further transform his art.
“Instead of using that as a negative, I’m trying to incorporate that into my art as a style,” he said.
After stints in assisted living homes and homeless shelters, Gold moved to Middlebury four years ago from Bridport because of what he called “a much more social scene” in the town.
Gold recognizes that his language and financial struggles have hampered his ability to succeed as an artist. Last year, he made $250 after expenses.
“Art is one of the only things that I can complete start to finish without any help,” he said. “I need help with the managerial side of it because I can’t fill out the forms to apply for the galleries. So even though I can produce the art, it doesn’t go anyplace.”
Gold initially excelled in Middlebury with the help of a coach, who assisted him with reading, writing and applying for exhibits. But he had to abandon the coach six months ago because he could no longer afford the service.
“Even getting groceries is hard for me, and none of the stores will offer free delivery for a disabled person,” he said. “It’s hard being an advocate for yourself.”
Nevertheless, the general public can get a taste of Gold’s art in a show currently on display at the Ilsley Public Library in downtown Middlebury. The exhibition of Gold’s work, along with that of portrait photographer and friend Tami Crupi Zeman, has been on view during the month of January. Their exhibit continues through Sunday.
Despite his struggles, Gold called the accident “a blessing” and said he’s happier now with his five-year-old golden retriever Sweetie than he ever was as a dentist.
“As a dentist, I was much more of an egomaniac,” he said. “I started doing art because it gave me a reason to live … Strangely the amount of money I have now compared to when I was a doctor is so much less, but it doesn’t bother me. I wish I could get a coach, but other than that, I am happy.”
Gold dreams of striking it big as an artist in order to give back to people who are in dark place he once was in.
“Ideally what I’d like to do is make a lot of money from art and start a clinic for neurologically disabled adults in the Middlebury area who can’t afford treatment because I know what it’s like,” he said.
Independent intern Kyle Finck can be reached at [email protected].
The Fresh Air Fund, initiated in 1877 to give kids from New York City the opportunity to e … (read more)
BRISTOL — A memorial service for Mark A. Nelson of Bristol will be held 1 p.m. on Saturday … (read more)
See when your favorite high school team is competing in the fall sports playoffs.