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CHHS grad's portrait inspires correspondent's widow

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Ebony Marshman's art on exhibit at WKU

When Ebony Marshman heard in February about the death of foreign correspondent Anthony Shadid through Twitter, she was surprised how moved she was at the news.

Marshman, a senior visual arts student at Western Kentucky University and Central Hardin High School graduate, decided to paint a watercolor portrait of Shadid.

“I remember this time last year he was kidnapped in Libya,” she said. “I paint portraits anyway and I knew there was a show coming up, so I chose to do a portrait of him. I worked from a mix of photos, not just one.”

When she completed her portrait, Marshman posted a copy on Twitter, which she uses for news and networking. Through a series of retweets, the image found its way to Nada Bakri, Shadid’s widow. Bakri then tweeted Marshman and asked for a hard copy of the portrait.

“I remember looking at the tweet and getting teary eyed because I was surprised that she saw it and that she wanted it,” Marshman said. “I told her I would be honored to send her the original.”

Marshman was surprised and moved by the attention.

“I feel like all my portraits are personal,” she said. “I feel like its purpose is served if someone was able to appreciate it and be moved by it, especially her, of all people.”

Knowing Bakri has seen the portrait has made Marshman a little self-conscious about the likeness, “like I could have done this or shifted some things around to make it look more like him exactly,” she said. “I had to calm myself down. She saw something in it that she recognized.”

“Portrait of a Man with Kind Eyes” is on display until April in the Ivan Wilson Fine Arts Center Gallery in the WKU student art competition. Marshman said the title comes from the warmth evident in the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner’s coverage of the Middle East, most recently for The New York Times and Washington Post.

Shadid and three other journalists were kidnapped in March 2011 in Libya and held for six days.

“I remember watching the interview when they returned from Libya after being kidnapped and out of the four, he was the paternal one,” she said.

Bakri lives in Lebanon but currently is in the U.S. promoting “House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East,” a book Shadid wrote about his restoration of his great-grandfather’s home in Lebanon. Shadid died at 43 in Syria of an apparent asthma attack before the book was published. Marshman hopes Bakri’s tour will bring her close enough for them to meet.

Yvonne Petkus, associate professor of art at WKU, said she consistently has been impressed with Marshman and her compassion for others.

“This experience of connecting through her own creative efforts just reinforces the mental framework helpful for a future of making things happen through art,” she said.