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Art and word (sometimes, 'God's) on display at mall

February 11, 2007|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - "Attention Kmart Shoppers!"

"This is God. Evacuate my mall!"

The first two lines in Ed Zahniser's book of poetry titled "Mall-Hopping with the Great I AM" seemed to jibe well with the first Hearts for the Arts community event on Saturday at Martinsburg Mall.

"We're never quoted in the news, you know," Zahniser said when asked about his participation with more than 50 visual artists and authors who agreed to take part in the two-day event organized by Athens on the Opequon, a society formed for the appreciation of traditional poetry, literature and fine arts. The event began on Friday.

A work about two years in the making in writings at Betty's Restaurant in Shepherdstown, W.Va., where he lives, Zahniser said his poetry includes his interpretation of God's comments on malls, big discount stores and the like.

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"At the end of two years, God was bored," Zahniser said. "There wasn't much left to say,"

Seated at a table with fellow poets Sonja James of Martinsburg and Ethan Fischer of Harpers Ferry, W.Va., Zahniser was less than forthcoming on how many copies of his book have sold.

"We may be poets, but we're realists," he said.

Several tables removed from the trio, Donna K. Ashbaugh of Jefferson County, W.Va., sat behind a table mounted with her watercolor paintings.

"I love the way the water flows," said Ashbaugh, who has painted since she was a young child, and had a scenery picture featured at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in the fourth grade.

"It creates its ownself sometimes," she said.

Even when Ashbaugh, 54, thinks she creates what she refers to as "trash can stuff," she hangs onto it.

"I did a sunflower one time and hated it," she recalled. It now is framed and hanging in her home off Chestnut Hill Road.

"He's always been behind me," Ashbaugh said of her husband.

The artists and authors didn't mention it, but Hearts for the Arts organizer Mona Adams said the event allowed participants to sell their works at no charge while bringing two creative groups together and network.

"There's been separation between us in the past," Adams said. "What we're trying to do is bring them back together again."

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