Past Tense: Art Reclaimed

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Mike Labagh is an artist. While featured in our Horsepower segment, he truly belongs on the art page as well.

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When I first met Mike, I assumed his profession was in the auto industry. Few people I have encountered with the talent for bringing old vehicles to life – mechanically and visually – have not been in the trade. Yet when interviewed, it was disclosed that Mike reclaims wood and creates living environments for those who choose that lifestyle. After years of building boat docks and discovering the rich patina and texture of old wood, it was a natural transition.

Everything from old french doors now used as windows to floors or walls made from wood salvaged and renewed by his hand. An old wooden hatch cover from a ship, once repurposed as a coffee table by his grandmother, is now currently residing as a small interior entry door.

The Labagh home was built by Mike himself, a traditional Florida Cracker house which he says took him six years to build. The kitchen features distressed wood cabinets finished with copper inserts as well other touches throughout; there’s no doubt that the entire house has his signature.

Landscaping is also something Mike has put his stamp on. When you enter the driveway to his residence, each side is flanked by pasture with old trucks converted into lawn ornaments. Flower beds tastefully surround each vehicle and become the canvas for the trucks to be displayed.

Horses, of course, are the feature of this magazine and a very stocky white Percheron cross mare grazes alongside her buddy, a paint gelding…all against a backdrop of creativity and style. The horses are ridden by wife Rica and daughter Elisa. Elisa, age 14, participates in 4-H as well as local riding clubs and competes in shows. She and her mother both have become volunteers at Marion Therapeutic Association, a non-profit organization that uses horses in therapy for those who are physically and mentally challenged.

Rica also volunteers at the women’s prison in Lowell, through a faith-based group. She speaks of the work being done at the prison with obvious enthusiasm and pride. The most obvious role, though, is her support of Mike and what he creates. She relates how his salvage finds go from questionable pieces of rust and debris to works of art.

Rescue dogs and a couple of Labradors also grace this home, as well as a variety of chickens. It is evident family is important to all of them; as I was leaving the interview, I observed the couple slowly walking back to the house, arms around each other and heads together, discussing events of the day. A quiet, yet noteworthy moment – not unlike the art Mike creates.

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Barb currently resides in Central Florida with her three horses; when she’s not writing or riding for HRL, she loves to read and travel.