Trash to Treasure

Rubbish has been rejuvenated into modern works of art. A faithful recycler of plastic and aluminum, Edmond artist Michael Hanes took his “green” efforts a step further when he began creating recycled art three years ago.

Hanes began welding scrap metal into unusual sculptures. “I liked the idea of taking something that was discarded by someone else and designing it into something beautiful,” says Hanes. His sculptures, which reflect his unique style and love for contemporary abstract designs, have been purchased across the United States and around the world.

Most of Hanes’ art is created with recycled or cast-off objects. In his home one man’s trash has truly become another man’s treasure. Walk slowly through the living room to take in all of the artwork. Hanes discusses the art in his home while sporting a metallic, teal jacket he picked up at a thrift store. His contemporary, flat-roofed home is furnished with many 1960s pieces tracked down in antique stores and on eBay.  “Most everything is vintage,” says Hanes. One eBay find, large, opaque globe light fixtures, hang from the ceiling throughout the house. Hanes created his fireplace screen by welding old masonry nails together. Various other metal sculptures grace tables or are free standing. The art continues into the backyard with tons of metal sculptures.

“I love the fact that it’s recycled. I have a special admiration for people who can see trash and turn it into art,” art lover Lori Bolton says of Hanes’ work.

“I had to buy an old truck so I could pick up scrap metal,” Hanes laughs. “The metal was scratching the trunk of my car. So I just pick up all kinds of scrap metal – anything I think looks interesting. When I get home I spread it out and when I want to work on a sculpture I just walk around picking up different pieces to weld together.”

Hanes’ bald head, small silver hoop earrings, goatee, black business suits and black Beatle boots usually cause people to double take, especially at his part-time job at the Oklahoma County Jail. Few people know that the funky glasses he wears are clear glass, not prescription. “I like the design of glasses,” he says. Now 46, Hanes fears prescription glasses are just around the corner.

The upstairs sitting area of Hanes’ home is a gallery for more art. It features paintings mounted in old frames discovered in antique stores and paintings he created over old artwork. Cray-pas (oil crayons) cover the original painting then Hanes scratches shapes and abstract designs into the Cray-pas covering to create a new and interesting painting.

“I just started making these drawings,” Hanes says and points out drawings of a violin, wine bottle, sheet music and other items. “I’ve included pages from magazines to make the coloring of things like the wine bottle.” Hanes uses cardboard for texture and Cray-pas for more color that he scrapes to simulate wood grain.

Hanes works full-time in Oklahoma City as the Director of Medical Records, Continuous Quality Improvement and Special Projects at Red Rock Behavioral Health. Perhaps all of those titles explain his need to relax by creating. Hanes’ office is much different from his home. He calls his office “organized chaos.”  The largest wall is littered with papers hanging in no apparent order, while his artwork peeks out from behind.  “That’s the ‘wall of shame,’” he chuckles. “Those are projects. The most important is this ‘Things To Do’ list. Everything else swirls around it like a black hole.”
Even the art in his office displays his “green” nature. Next to two of his paintings are three large ink cartridge shipping cartons made of molded paper mounted on a background of red. “I like the shape of them,” Hanes says with a smile. On the floor next to his chair is a box with a paper sign that reads “Recycle Man” underneath a recycling symbol. Before the office had a recycling program Hanes collected his aluminum cans to take to his Edmond recycling bin.
Hanes is also a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Registered Art Therapist – Board Certified. In 1986, he established the art therapy technique of road drawings. While completing an undergraduate internship in art therapy at St. Anthony Hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania, Hanes asked his art therapy patients to draw roads. “My supervisor was a gestalt art therapist so she used a lot of metaphors and I just emulated her. I thought, ‘Ok, I’ll use roads.’ I don’t really remember how or why I decided on roads, but I still have two of the original road drawings from
that first time.”

“I don’t say I’m the first to use this technique. Probably others have, but I’m the only person to research and publish why and how it works,” Hanes says. In 1995, Hanes’ article “Utilizing Road Drawings as a Therapeutic Metaphor in Art Therapy” was published in the American Journal of Art Therapy. In 1997 he published the book “Roads to the Unconscious: A Manual for Understanding Road Drawings.”

Hanes is currently working on a book called “A Thing of Beauty: Designing the Corporate World.” “It’s about designing a company utilizing the same techniques you would for designing a product.  It should have functionality and
beauty,” he notes.

With his penchant for recycling it also seems likely Hanes would suggest recycling bins at any company he designs. “It’s important to conserve our resources and reduce the negative impact we have on our environment,” Hanes says. Hanes’ art can be viewed at

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