Ebener gaining recognition
Martha Ebener freely admits that public speaking is not her forte. Addressing
a formal gathering of people seated in front of her, waiting for her to
say something profound, is quite unnerving for Ebener, a documents associate
in Woodruff Library's Government Documents section.
for unique painting style
Actually, Ebener's apprehension about public speaking has not been a major
concern for most of her life. But since her paintings began to increase
in popularity and she began showing them in more places, Ebener has been
asked more and more to talk about her work with the art lovers who come
to see it.
Calming the butterflies
Last March during Emory's celebration of Women's History Month, Ebener got
her first taste of public speaking outside a classroom setting. An exhibition
of her works was displayed in the Dobbs Center Art Gallery during the month,
and she was asked to discuss her work before an Emory audience.
"Of course, I kept messing up the slide projector," Ebener recalled,
"but everything turned out okay." She was much more comfortable
at a showing of her works last October at the Autrey Mill Nature Preserve
in north Fulton County. "People were just hanging out in the chapel
[where her work was displayed]. So it was a bit more informal, and I could
just be relaxed about talking to people."
Becoming more accustomed to public speaking is an important goal for Ebener,
"because I'm talking more to gallery dealers, curators and reporters,"
in addition to audiences of art lovers.
A graduate of the University of Georgia with a BFA in painting, Ebener describes
her painting as figurative and allegorical. "I like to paint animals
and landscapes, but they're not very traditional or academic," she
explained. "A lot of them are based on certain ideas I've had or stories
in folklore mythology that I've read." Ebener said she works mainly
with the theme of nature "because I feel like all human beings have
a need for a spiritual connection with nature."
Ebener is often surprised by some of the connections other people make when
they see her work, connections that never could have occurred to her while
she was creating the work.
"At the Autrey Mill show, there was a woman whose father was a Holocaust
survivor, and she was a sculptor," Ebener said. "I had this painting
of a cow in the show and I was telling her about how I just love cows and
thought they were wonderful creatures with beautiful faces and eyes. The
woman told me what it was like when her father returned to their town after
being in a concentration camp. He found that most of the people were gone,
but a lot of the farm animals were still there. That was a startling realization,
how the appearance of things hadn't changed that much in the midst of something
horrible going on."
In addition to her paintings, Ebener also creates hand-made books. She has
done about 25 so far. One is titled "The Prayer Book" and is based
on the hours of the day when monks and nuns pray. The book developed as
a result of Ebener's waking up in the middle of the night several times.
"I couldn't go back to sleep, so I started analyzing the world's problems,"
As a result of that insomnia, "The Prayer Book" contains some
strong statements about the condition of the world. One page includes the
phrase, "I wish the Pope would wake up to reality." Another deals
with Ebener's wish that she would never have to see the phrase "Thank
God for AIDS" as long as she lives. "They're really statements
of frustration," she said. "I guess they're more wishes than prayers."
In a five-book series called "Rape in These United States," Ebener
used her experience working at a rape crisis hotline to explain how rape
has come to be seen as an almost typical occurrence in this country. "It
seemed as if [rape] was happening all the time and people just ignored it,
or at least didn't pay much attention to it," she said. "It was
almost like rape was being trivialized as just another part of life."
Creating a book can take anywhere from a couple of days to several weeks,
Earning a living
Five years down the road, Ebener hopes that sales of her paintings will
have become successful enough for her to work at least part-time on painting.
Currently, she squeezes it in between shifts at the library. "This
has been the best year I've ever had," Ebener said of her painting
sales. "I got into a lot of shows and sold a lot of paintings, so I'll
definitely have to report something to the U.S. government."
Ebener's secret fantasy is to save up enough money to go to Italy for a
couple of years and do nothing but paint. "That really is a fantasy,"
she said. "Maybe some day."
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