The artist inside
At 13, Michael Davenport lost his arms, but not his passion
While playing in his yard when he was 13- years- old, Michael Davenport decided to emulate the great jungle warrior Tarzan he had seen on television. He collected a good length of rope and twirled it back and forth before letting it fly towards a tree branch to become his personal Tarzan swinging vine.
But Davenport’s aim was off just a bit and his would- be vine wrapped around a power line instead of a limb. Before he could blink 555,000 volts of electricity surged through Davenport’s body. What he had mistaken for a spool of rope was actually copper wire which acted as a potent conductor for the electricity.
As he remembers it, Davenport stayed in the electricity’s grip for nearly five minutes before finally breaking free. When it was over, he had no toes as the current had destroyed the flesh before exiting his body to reach the ground. During the following months, doctors preformed 64 separate operations in an attempt to save Davenport’s arms.
“ They tried to save my right hand,” he said. “ But there was nothing they could do.”
Now 41, Davenport has learned to adapt. Despite losing both arms in the accident, he now makes his living as an an artist in Porterdale using his mouth instead of his hands to create his masterpieces.
Before losing his hands, Davenport could not even draw a stick figure, but one day while sitting in class he decided to write the alphabet using his pencil and mouth. Soon he was able to not only write in cursive, but also draw basic pictures as well.
Davenport said he was able to learn a lot from his uncle about art.
“ I used to watch my uncle go at it,” Davenport said. “ He and his friend were true artists.”
As he perfected his technique, Davenport began selling his work, particularly his drawings of the University of Georgia football mascot Uga. Growing up around Athens, Davenport would sell his artwork outside the stadium on game days. On a good day, he would sell 50 drawings a day at $ 30 to $ 40 each.
“ I can do anything from mascots to family portraits,” Davenport said. “ Pretty much anything a person wants, I can do.”
Davenport uses markers, pen and ink and pastel paints to create his artworks. In addition to the mascots, Davenport also likes to write scriptures from the Bible as well as draw biblical characters
“ Stuff like Moses dividing the seas,” Davenport said. “ I love creating heroes from the Bible.”
Raised in the church, Davenport is still a deeply religious man who credits God with all his accomplishments.
“ I’m a totally born Christian,” Davenport said. “ Through God there is no such word as can’t.”
Davenport also gives praise to his grandparents who he said were always there for him.
“ My grandfather used to tell me, ‘ If you don’t get out there and try you will always feel left out. But if you go out there, you will know you at least tried,’” Davenport said.
Recently Davenport’s grandparents passed away and he has since fallen on hard times.
“ Since I lost my grandparents, family has not been there like they should,” he said.
After Davenport decided to leave Athens, a friend told him about Porterdale. Through the support of churches and shelters, he was able to travel from city to city until finally arriving about a month ago.
Davenport, who currently resides at the Rainbow Covenant Church Ministries transitional housing, spends his days around the Porterdale Mill Lofts creating and selling his art to local citizens and vendors.
“ I love it here,” Davenport said. “ I would love to make it my home. There are lots of real nice people here.”
Davenport is saving as much as he can of the mon- ey his art brings in so he can achieve some of his long term goals.
“ I really want to mentor kids who are going through what I have gone through,” Davenport said. “ I know how they feel. They feel like the rest of the world can’t understand which they really can’t unless they have been through it. I really want them to know that God gave us a chance in life because he loves us.”
He would also like to write a book one day about his experiences and possibly meet Oprah Winfrey.
“ I think we could do a lot of good together,” Davenport said.
For now though, he is just trying to get by and is asking for any help the community might be able to offer.
“ I hate to ask for help, but I have to do what God sees fit for me,” Davenport said. “Anyone who can donate art supplies or who can help me reach my goals would be appreciated.”
To contact Davenport, please call ( 678) 419- 8833.
Ink on canvas: Local artist Michael Davenport creates a Georgia Bulldog ink- on- canvas drawing in front of Latte Da Coffee Shop and Dessert Bar in Porterdale Monday afternoon.