It is obvious that E.F. Hebner appreciates beauty as soon as one walks into his home.
Hebner is a former professor at Ohio State and remains a skilled artist well into his 83 years. His latest exhibit, “excerpts…2009,” is on display at the Ohio State Urban Arts Space until Oct. 10.
Hebner said that he has been drawing since he was a very young boy, but he got his formal education at Washington University in St. Louis. He taught visual design and composition for industrial painting at OSU from 1956 to 1992. He retired to pursue his work at his home studio.
Before making his way to Columbus in 1956, Hebner worked on design of construction exhibition and industrial design.
“It took the form of large, shippable, exhibitions in order to advertise products through multimedia means,” Hebner said. “It required a lot of electrical (equipment) and carpentry to advertise such things as 7UP and carburetors for automobiles, telephones and all sorts of things.”
It is easy to understand why Hebner has not stuck to just one platform of expression considering that background. He has created art across many forms of media, including paintings, drawings, collage and performance. “excerpts…2009” features masonite paintings.
“I’m not sure what inspiration means. My works don’t usually take the form that most artists claim, in terms of starting with a drawing and developing it further. It all happens sort of at once,” Hebner said.
He was unable to sum up an inspiration or theme for this exhibit because he believes that it is the responsibility of the viewer of art to create meaning for it.
“I want you to go see the art and form your own response to it,” he said. “Not a response to me but a response to the art. That speaks for what I have to say as an artist. And (in) each individual piece you will find, hopefully, differences and similarities.”
A peculiarity sometimes overlooked is that Hebner often uses obfuscation in his paintings, hiding things from easy view of the observer.
He said that he has always been very interested in the manipulation of sight and how we view things and he tries to put that into his art.
“I would hope that you get a feeling for the whole by just standing and looking at the group of things, but as you approach a painting you can find other things that can’t be seen from far across the room and I think of those as little rewards for paying attention,” Hebner said. “There are paintings within paintings and process within process.”
The most humbling thing about Hebner’s work is that he often observes people trying to create meaning or stories behind paintings, and he takes that as a general truth about human nature.
“All we can do as humans is to tell stories, because we really don’t know the truth of anything,” Hebner said.
Hebner quoted a movie as he said, “Life is mysterious, you know. We just get used to it.”
That idea of taking mystery as a fact is something that Hebner has tried to incorporate in his art and his life, and is as close to truth as we can come, he said.
“I really think that there is mystery in all of our experience here and that if we can take that as a fact, then what we experience is enriched,” Hebner said. “I don’t think what we see visually with our eyes is the whole thing. There is a lot of beauty out there, but I think beauty is also in experience.”
Hebner will be at the OSU Urban Arts Space for a reception in his honor tomorrow from 7 to 9 p.m.