Countless hours spent hovering over his original three-dimensional works of art, chiseling and shaping and drilling the large colorful panels, is hard work for anybody.
“Let alone a man of my age,” said Michael Butner, 86, a Little Rock artist. “It’s very taxing on my old bones.”
So much so that Michael relies on weekly exercise and therapy he receives at the UAMS Jackson T. Stephens Spine Neurosciences Institute to keep him in good enough shape to keep creating his unique multi-colored works of art. Without therapy and exercise, he says, it’d be impossible to continue the creative process thats given meaning to his later years.
“UAMS has played a vital, extended role in the lives of me and my family and our quality of life, for many years now,” Michael said. “The tedious work on my 3-D art panels requires me to bend my neck and spine in order to drill and paint these panels. The specialized therapy and exercise that I am receiving each week has relieved a tremendous amount of pain and stress on my spinal column. My quality of life is directly linked to UAMS.”
Todd Dalby, the physical therapist who works with Michael twice a week, said the muscles around the artists spine were stretched and weak, providing little stability. He’s helped Michael isolate those muscles and exercise them, helping him regain a lot of the motion and strength he had lost.
“Most people think as they get older that the less active they are the less chance they have of injuring themselves or becoming more frail,” Todd said. “The opposite is true; the more active you are especially if you’re isolating the right muscles the better off you are. Michael is so passionate about his art that hes willing to come in and do the work necessary to keep his body in shape to do it.”
Through the years, Michael’s works have been on display in several locations in Arkansas and across the country, including the William J. Clinton Presidential Library, the prestigious Art Deco Society in New York, and the UAMS Library.
He began his 3-D panel collection at the age of 80 and has 64 finished pieces. Butner drills into the surface of half-inch thick, clear acrylic panels. He then paints those grooves and the rest of the piece, working from the backside to interpret everything from the universe to Christmas landscapes to abstract designs. When the piece is flipped over, viewers see the piece as it is intended. At first glance, some might say they sometimes look almost like stained glass. He says he doesn’t know of any other artist that’s creating pieces quite the way he does it.
“I’ve never found anything like my work,” Michael said. “They’re almost like magic. They glisten. They shine through.”
Already having gone through quadruple bypass heart surgery at age 75 in California, six months later he received a pacemaker.
“Art is what kept me going through all of that,” Micheal said.