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Student’s portrait of journalist Anthony Shadid attracts attention of his widow

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

WKU senior Ebony Marshman's portrait of Anthony Shadid is on display at the Ivan Wilson Fine Arts Center Gallery. (WKU photo by Clinton Lewis)

Marshman, a senior visual arts student at WKU 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 said she 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 that Bakri has seen her portrait has made her 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 currently 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 is currently 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 that Bakri’s tour will bring her close enough for them to meet.

Yvonne Petkus, associate professor of Art at WKU, said she has been consistently 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.

Read more: Student portrait of Anthony Shadid catches widow’s eye on Twitter

Contact: Bob Skipper, (270) 745-4295.

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