When Michael Abbott of Panama City Beach, FL, looks at the woods surrounding the river near his home, he doesn’t just see trees. He sees his next creation.
After his diagnosis of young onset Parkinson’s in 2004, the retired firefighter and former US Marine started making sculptures of trees using old copper wires. He has since found it to be a therapeutic outlet. Recently, one of his sculptures entitled, “Autumn Bliss” (pictured at left) was selected to appear in PDF’s 2016 Creativity and Parkinson’s Calendar for the month of February.
Find out how creativity has impacted Michael’s life and what it means to him to share his artwork with the PD community.
Q. What motivated you to join PDF’s Creativity and Parkinson’s Project?
A. I became interested in PDF’s Creativity and Parkinson’s Project when I was looking at PDF’s website for information on the latest PD treatments and news. While I was there, I saw the creativity gallery and found out I wasn’t alone in my newfound expression. PDF contributes so much to the Parkinson’s community in terms of serious things like research and treatment. It’s nice to see the foundation give people with Parkinson’s a tangible outlet and something positive instead of the daily grind of Parkinson’s. It’s a light for something creative, fun and beautiful in what can be a struggle.
Q. Were you creative before your diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease?
A. I’ve only been sculpting for a couple of years. I was not really creative prior to Parkinson’s, although I have always had an interest, desire and ability in writing. That seems to also have increased since PD. Coming from my background as a forest ranger, firefighter and US Marine, I’ve always been a very masculine kind of guy. So I was somewhat embarrassed of my artsy-crafty side that developed after PD! It doesn’t bother me so much today. A lot of things don’t bother me so much today. Parkinson’s has put many things in perspective.
Q. What inspired you to start sculpting? How does creativity impact your life with PD?
A. I became interested in sculpting when I noticed one day how the ends of old copper wire I was about to throw away could be twisted into various shapes of trees. After some research, I realized there was a whole artistic community of wire sculptors. I make mental notes, sometimes take pictures, of trees I see and roughly reproduce their forms.
The type of sculpting I do, creating the trees from small stones and wire, takes a lot of manual dexterity. For people with PD like me, dexterity doesn’t come easy. Due to the nature of the medication on-and off times associated with the disease, I can only work on these projects at certain times of the day. This can be frustrating when I have so many ideas in my head just waiting to be expressed. It also means I must work on them every chance I get. Creativity definitely gives me an outlet to feel productive despite how Parkinson’s can make me feel unproductive in so many other ways in life.
Q. What does it mean to see your artwork in the Creativity and Parkinson’s Calendar?
A. It’s really humbling to have my work selected because I know there are so many others who are very skilled artists in the Parkinson’s community and who are experiencing the same creative urges associated with the disease. There were many other works just as deserving, but there can only be 13 each year. I am just so happy PDF thought mine was worthy of being one of them. I knew sculpting was therapeutic for me, but never really knew if anyone else saw any aesthetic value to it.
Mr. Abbott is a former US Marine and retired firefighter, who lives on the Choctawhatchee River with his wife Amy and son Ian. He is one of nearly 400 other artists living with Parkinson’s who have shared their artwork and experiences with PDF’s Creativity and Parkinson’s Project. View more of Mr. Abbott’s artwork by visiting PDF’s Creativity and Parkinson’s gallery here.
Do you also find creative activities beneficial to life with PD? Share your thoughts below.