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Ohio's Dayton Art Institute Displays The Work of Ken Butler
Ken Butler in his studio.

DAYTON, OH.- Imagine a violin created from a cowboy boot, a banjo made from the seat of a bicycle, or a cello assembled from a pitch fork. These are just a few of the unusual creations of Ken Butler, an accomplished visual artist and musician. Butler’s playable hybrid musical instruments, fashioned from such everyday items as flashlights, brooms, and clocks, are featured in the special exhibition, KEN BUTLER: Hybrid Visions, on view at The Dayton Art Institute through August 10, 2008.

Ken Butler is internationally recognized as an innovator of experimental musical instruments created from diverse materials including tools, sports equipment, and household objects. Butler describes himself as a bricoleur, a French term loosely translated to mean “handyman” or “jack of all trades.” The concept is to make something with whatever is at hand.

Butler constructed his first playable hybrid instrument in 1978 when he added a fingerboard, tailpiece, pegs, bridge, and a contact microphone to a small hatchet, which he then played as a violin. The axe violin, which Butler has played at hundreds of live performances, was both his first sound piece and first sculptural object. Since then, he has created more than 400 hybrid string (and a few percussion) instruments/sculptures from primarily found objects and materials.

The exhibition of more than 75 works will include every facet of Butler’s oeuvre from his first hybrid instrument, Axe Violin, 1978, to his most recent works. Exhibition highlights include his Styrotone Grand Piano (made from Styrofoam packing material) and his Projection Grand Piano, which creates a light show when it is played.

Large wall sculptures from Butler’s Lost and Sound Series, collages, and schematic drawings of his audio-visual sculptures and installations will also be included. The culmination of the exhibition will be Butler’s indescribable installation room, Tilted Picnic.

KEN BUTLER: Hybrid Visions was organized by the Hallie Ford Museum of Art at Willamette University and the Art Gym at Marylhurst University. The exhibition has been supported in part by grants from the City of Salem’s Transient Occupancy Tax funds and the Oregon Arts Commission. The Dayton Art Institute exhibition has been augmented with additional works courtesy of the artist.

Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors (60+) and students (19+ with valid college ID), $4 for youth (7-18), free for children 6 and under, and free for museum members. To order tickets, call 937-223-4ART or visit

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