Artist hopes novel process will add spark to his work

MIDDLEBURY — Bob Gold has divided his life into two parts. He spent the first part as a dentist. He studied at the New York University School of Dentistry and was a clinical assistant in prosthetic dentistry at Harvard University. Gold ran a successful private practice for over 20 years in Manchester, N.H.
Then in 1996, while he was sitting at an intersection, a pickup truck crashed into the rear end of his car, leaving him with traumatic brain and spine injuries. He lost his ability to read and write, and all ability to practice his profession.
After stays in assisted living homes and homeless shelters, Gold came to Vermont to receive treatment. Gold moved to Middlebury in 2007, where he now lives with an affectionate and appropriately named golden retriever named Sweetie.
But across the two parts of his life, Gold has maintained a singular passion for making art.
As a lifelong artist, Gold, 70, today continues that passion by producing prints with digital media and acrylic paint. Since committing to his art fulltime, he’s been busy. In his sunny studio on Court Street, he says he’s produced more work in the past four years than in the previous 50. In addition to being more productive, he’s noticed a major stylistic shift in his art since his injury.
“Before the accident my work was black and white and in charcoal,” Gold said. “The subject matter was mostly the downtrodden of society. Then after the accident, bright color started to feel right and my art was better than before. It was almost like an idiot savant experience. As it became more extreme in color, it felt more right to me.”
After his accident and his move to Vermont, Gold set aside the charcoal and pencils and began producing art digitally on a refurbished Macintosh computer. Because of the brain injury he couldn’t read the image editing software’s user manual, so he improvised: He started printing out his photos and retouching them with acrylic paints.
He began making his own paintbrushes; the delicate tools of his former trade took alternate uses to scrape and spread the paint where he chose. Gold shoots entirely with his iPhone and the device currently holds 10,244 pictures of his travels and surroundings. Many of these pictures are used as subjects in his art. Gold produces his work on conventional high-quality paper and then reproduces it on larger canvases if he likes the result.
Gold has experienced some success with his craft. His portraits have hung in the Ava Gallery in Lebanon, N.H., the Amy Tarrant Gallery in Burlington and the Catamount Film and Arts Center in St. Johnsbury. A series of works on the Breadloaf Wilderness hangs in Carol’s Hungry Mind Café in downtown Middlebury and he was named an artist of distinction at the Chaffee Art Center in Rutland.
BOB GOLD APPLIES paint directly to printed photographs as part of his art process.
In 2011, with the assistance of the Vermont Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, Gold worked with a professional artist. The artist recommended Gold take a class with Jon Cone, an accomplished photographer and developer of photographic ink jet technologies who has worked with well-known painters including Stanley Boxer, Norman Bluhm and Wolf Kahn.
Gold did take a class with Cone, who teaches classes for artists around the country, and was impressed with Cone’s work. Gold spoke with Cone about helping him produce his own larger, more detailed prints through an experimental process Gold calls “extreme printing.”
Conventional digital printing uses chemicals to print an image on the surface of paper. In his plan for “extreme printing” Gold plans to create a more vibrant work by printing on Japanese kozo paper, made from mulberry trees and traditionally used for oil painting. Cone has previously used the technique in black and white projects, but has not printed in color. Gold’s project would require twice the normal quantity of ink, which penetrates to the core of the paper.
“It becomes a marriage of printing and sculpture,” he said. “It has a three-dimensional depth to it. What I do will change the vibrancy by painting on it.”
But the cost of the paper plus the printing will total $1,500 per print, Gold says. To help pay for the cost of printing with Cone, he this week is launching a fundraising effort through the crowd funding website Kickstarter.com.
“I want to expand the bounds of printing and I want you to just be as excited about it,” Gold says in a four-minute video that will be featured on his Kickstarter page, which is scheduled to go live on Thursday. He hopes to raise $5,000.
Gold plans to use the results of the work with Cone to apply for a grant with the Vermont Arts Council, which will fund future artwork. Gold plans to send his portfolio to museums and galleries, which all require different applications including artist statements, biographies and samples of work.
Gold said this project will help him take his craft to the next level by enabling him apply to galleries that previously hadn’t been open to his art.
“Even when I was in dentistry, I practiced on the cutting edge,” he said. “I’m doing that in art now.”
Gold’s brain injury means that he still requires assistance with reading, writing, cooking, cleaning and other everyday tasks. His iPhone, a critical tool in his art, also has alerts to remind him to take medication or rest. His Court Street studio houses more than 600 completed works with no system of organization. He says the only tasks he can complete without assistance are making artwork and, amazingly, driving.
Gold says he doesn’t miss dentistry but misses building relationships with his patients. Since his accident, he’s started to follow the teachings of the Dalai Lama and meditates daily. He’s also worked to repair strained relationships with friends and family.
In addition to modern medicine and therapy, he says his art has helped him pick a new direction in life.
“When I was a dentist and taught at Harvard, I think I was much more of an ego maniac who didn’t listen to people,” he said. “I’m not like that anymore. I try and listen, help where I can and make the world a better place.”
Editor’s note: Check out this story on AddisonIndependent.com after Thursday or check out our Facebook page to see a link to Gold’s Kickstarter campaign website. Gold also has his own website at www.RobertGoldart.com.
AS IS EVIDENT in this work called “Middlebury Porch,” Bob Gold uses vivid colors in his artwork.

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