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TheRaven
08-01-2013, 12:22 PM
Ernie Barnes

I've been a big admirer of the great Ernie Barnes for a long time. He's a painter but he was also a football player drafted by the Baltimore Colts in 1959. Before he began to be on the team he was invited to watch the championship game from the sidelines. He was overcome with the excitement of being with the championship team and seeing so many great players. The evening after that game he went to his room and painted "The Bench" which he carried with him where ever he moved. There were no rough sketches he only worked from what was in his head and he used a palette knife directly to canvas to create it. He played on other NFL teams and played in the Canadian football league but he always painted, as well. When he played for the Denver Broncos the coach would fine him if he was caught sketching during a team meeting. During a time out at a game he would make quick notes on things he saw.

''During a timeout you’ve got nothing to do – you’re not talking – you’re just trying to breathe, mostly. Nothing to take out that little pencil and write down what you saw. The shape of the linemen. The body language a defensive lineman would occupy, his posture. What I see when you pull. The reaction of the defense to your movement; the awareness of the lines within the movement, the pattern within the lines, the rhythm of movement. A couple of notes to me would denote an action, an image that I could instantly recreate in my mind. Some of those notes have been made into paintings.''

His football career led to Barnesfirst art exhibition. The Bronco Backers Club asked Barnes to display his work at a Club meeting. When a man asked how much Barnes wanted for his painting “The Bench,” Barnes asked for a number he thought impossible the number $25,000. The man wrote a check and handed it to Barnes but Barnes refused to take it. The bartering drew a small crowd, and in that crowd was a reporter from Sports Illustrated Magazine. The reporter wrote about it and published a photo of “The Bench,” showing Barnes, as a football player and artist. The Denver Post ran a four-page article on Barnes’ work, garnering him the attention that allowed Barnes to supplement his football income

Barnes attended the NFL owners meeting in Houston in 1965 hoping he could become the league’s official artist. He was introduced to Sonny Werblin who owned the NY Jets. Werblin liked Bank's art and paid for Barnes to bring his paintings to New York. Werblin arranged for art critics to evaluate his paintings. They told Werblin that Barnes was “the most expressive painter of sports since George Bellows. At the first solo exhibit arranged by Werblin all of Ernie Barnes paintings sold. Sonny Werblin hired Barnes but didn't put him on the field football field. Werblin told Barnes “You have more value to the country as an artist than as a football player”

Mr. Barnes said: “One day on the playing field, I looked up and the sun was breaking through the clouds, hitting the unmuddied areas on the uniforms, and I said, ‘that’s beautiful!’ I knew then that it was all over being a player. I was more interested in art. So I traded my cleats for canvas, my bruises for brushes, and put all the violence and power I had felt on the field into my paintings. “ Plus he said: ''Throughout my five seasons in the NFL, I remained at the deepest level of my being...an artist''

Ernest Barnes Jr. was born in Durham, North Carolina July 15, 1938. His father was a shipping clerk for a tobacco company. His mama worked as a domestic in the home of a wealthy lawyer. She took Ernest with her on some days and he said it was at that house he began to appreciate art. Fuller would talk about schools of art...great painters...famous museums.
A overweight and non athletic child Barnes was taunted and sometimes beaten by classmates. He sought refuge in his sketchbooks, hiding in the less-traveled parts of school away from the other students. He was found one day in a quiet area by a teacher who was also the weightlifting coach and a former athlete. Coach Tucker was impressed with Ernie's art. He asked Ernie about his grades and goals. Coach Tucker shared his own experience of how bodybuilding improved his strength and outlook on life. Barnes said Tucker's example of discipline and dedication would help him the rest of his life. In his senior year Barnes became the captain of the football team.

In 1956 Barnes graduated from high school with 26 athletic scholarship offers. The closer schools of Duke and North Carolina University didn't offer him one because of Ernies race. The struggle for racial equality played a pivotal role in the forming of Barnes identity and in his development as an artist.

Barnes spent four years at the all-black North Carolina College majoring in art. Aside from playing football, Barnes studied with chairman of the art department, Ed Wilson, and co-chairman, William B. Fletcher. Under these two artists, Barnes learned the fundamentals of drawing, painting, anatomy, structure, drapery, perspective, light and shade, sculpture, design, figure study and art history. Ed Wilson pushed Barnes to find himself in his art, to utilize his experiences and pay attention to what was going on around him. Barnes said that because of Wilson he “came to better understand the art process and the athletic process as being parts of one entity.” In search of psychological truths for the themes of his work, Barnes began transferring his visual and emotional experiences on the football field to his canvases.

While at North Carolina College, Barnes was able to visit the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh where he viewed the work of Rubens, Caravaggio and Van Gogh. After asking the museum tour guide “Where are the paintings by Negro artists?” and getting the response, “I’m afraid your people don’t express themselves this way,” Barnes came face to face with the adversity he would have to overcome as a black artist. Ed Wilson discounted the tour guide’s ignorance after the trip by showing Barnes and his classmates the works of black artists Henry O. Tanner, Edmonia Lewis, Duncanson, Archibald Motley, Hale Woodruff, Sargent Johnson, and Palmer Hayden.

Many individuals know his art from the television show "Good Times" The character of JJ is a painter but most of the works are done by Barnes. Sugar Shack one of his most famous paintings made its debut on Good Times when it was used during the opening and closing credits during the show’s fourth season. Singer Marvin Gaye asked him for permission to use the painting as an album cover. Barnes made changes to the painting by adding references that allude to Gaye's album.
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/01-Aug-2013/96638-SugarShack.jpg

Critics have defined Barnes’ work as neo-mannerist. Based on his signature use of serpentine lines, elongation of the human figure, clarity of line, unusual spatial relationships, painted frames, and distinctive color palettes, art critic Frank Getlein credited Barnes as the founder of the neo-mannerism movement because of the similarity of technique and composition prevalent during the 16th century.

A consistent and distinct feature in his work are the closed eyes of his subjects. “It was in 1971 when I conceived the idea of The Beauty of the Ghetto as an exhibition. And I exposed it to some people who were black to get a reaction. And from one (person) it was very negative. And when I began to express my points of view (to this) professional man, he resisted the notion. And as a result of his comments and his attitude I began to see, observe, how blind we are to one another’s humanity. Blinded by a lot of things that have, perhaps, initiated feelings in that light. We don’t see into the depths of our interconnection. The gifts, the strength and potential within other human beings. We stop at color quite often. So one of the things we have to be aware of is who we are in order to have the capacity to like others. But when you cannot visualize the offerings of another human being you’re obviously not looking at the human being with open eyes. We look upon each other and decide immediately: This person is black, so he must be... This person lives in poverty, so he must be...

Most of Ernie Barnes artwork reflects his view of African-American lifestyles but he also shows us his continued love for sports. He also has a commitment towards racial and ethnic harmony and many of his paintings reflect it. With all things considered it’s easy to see why Ernie is one of the most collected artists in the world.

He died April 2009 in California.

Please visit his website:
http://erniebarnes.com/

In 2004 Barnes was named America’s Best Painter of Sports by the American Sport Art Museum & Archives. He wrote his autobiography, in 1995 titled From Pads to Pallette
http://www.amazon.com/From-Pads-Pall.../dp/1567960642 (http://www.amazon.com/From-Pads-Pallette-Ernie-Barnes/dp/1567960642)



http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/01-Aug-2013/96638-banks.jpg
High Aspirations

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/01-Aug-2013/96638-banksgraduate.jpg
The Graduate

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/01-Aug-2013/96638-banksrock.jpg
Solid Rock

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/01-Aug-2013/96638-Room_Full_ASistahs.jpg
Room full of sistahs



view previous AoM (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1313154)

davefriend
08-01-2013, 12:58 PM
Rashad, thanks for sharing with us the story of Ernie Barnes, a great man and artist. I love the Barnes quotes which revel such a depth of the human spirit. Well done! :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

TheRaven
08-01-2013, 01:27 PM
He was a great man in a lot of ways.
Thanks, Dave for reading and for helping me with some typo errors, as well.

lobsterpot
08-01-2013, 01:43 PM
I don't know this guy's work but I find it awful--painting Black people as spindly freaks involved in ecstasies beyond animal proportions. Sorry, but ugh!

Jon
08-01-2013, 04:28 PM
He was an interesting man on so many levels! I see he worked with inmates between seasons when playing football and received an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts. Thank you for reminding me of this man, I do recall his work, but I have not thought of it in some time. I did not know he has passed on, but what a wonderful legacy of work he has left us. Fantastic colors and movement in many of his paintings as one can see in the Solid Rock you shared with us. Beautiful!

TheRaven
08-02-2013, 10:15 AM
I don't know this guy's work but I find it awful--painting Black people as spindly freaks involved in ecstasies beyond animal proportions. Sorry, but ugh!It's too bad for you to see "freaks" and "animals" in his paintings. I see individuals moving to the joy of living.

TheRaven
08-02-2013, 10:18 AM
He was an interesting man on so many levels! I see he worked with inmates between seasons when playing football and received an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts. Thank you for reminding me of this man, I do recall his work, but I have not thought of it in some time. I did not know he has passed on, but what a wonderful legacy of work he has left us. Fantastic colors and movement in many of his paintings as one can see in the Solid Rock you shared with us. Beautiful!Sorry I was late with this thread but the other month had me too busy at work. Thanks for seeing the colors and the movement in his paintings.

raeburn10025
08-02-2013, 12:35 PM
Thanks for this thread.

PushingPixels
08-03-2013, 01:54 PM
Good to get another look at this man and his work. Lots of talent in this man.
Thanks for posting.

Katie Black
08-04-2013, 12:10 AM
Thank you, I enjoyed reading about this artist, I love his work and his take on life, I especially liked this quote "I began to see, observe, how blind we are to one another’s humanity. Blinded by a lot of things that have, perhaps, initiated feelings in that light. We don’t see into the depths of our interconnection. The gifts, the strength and potential within other human beings. We stop at color quite often. So one of the things we have to be aware of is who we are in order to have the capacity to like others. But when you cannot visualize the offerings of another human being you’re obviously not looking at the human being with open eyes. We look upon each other and decide immediately: This person is black, so he must be... This person lives in poverty, so he must be.."

I looked at his website and the painting "His Effort" is incredible.

truarts
08-04-2013, 01:42 AM
Thanks for sharing. Love this mans work and passion.

@ Losbsterpot, Compared to how Africans and African American have been portrayed throughout history, big lips, big nose, midnight black skin, savages, etc, this mans portrayal is a beautiful one. FYI, the elongation of figure to suggest movement, etc gets it roots from Africa. And has been employed by other artist throughout the year. Aaron Douglas, Palmer Hayden, Archibald J. Motely, Jr, Hale A. Woodruff to name a few.


If you need further reading: Sharon F. Patton, "African American Art

desrat
08-24-2013, 12:43 PM
Thanks, Raven. :) I like how his paintings have soul and express the joys and excitement that can be found in life.

davefriend
08-24-2013, 02:55 PM
Thanks, Raven. :) I like how his paintings have soul and express the joys and excitement that can be found in life.Very much agree!

I took a second look and I was struck again by the painting "High Aspirations" where the title suggests a goal set which is lofty, perhaps too often humans make unrealistic, beyond the reality of our reach goals ...but then, that is what makes the aspirations high. Here it's simple: make the basket-reach your goal. Why not just aim and toss? Too easy? Then step further away and toss the ball high up into the basket? Still not hard enough?

This is where what this person is made of is seen more clearly.

The figure making the leap is extra long and lean, stretched out beyond normal human configuration soaring high off the ground even flying over his humble home and when his head can't reach the goal his arms can stretch longer than his legs can jump to slam the ball down claiming the basket as his. He is no longer one of those who are bound to the earth by birth or circumstance but those who overcome obstacles and limitations and now soar above those things which used to tower over them.

What a wonderful image! :thumbsup::thumbsup: :thumbsup:

BlueRiderMan
08-27-2013, 12:32 AM
A consistent and distinct feature in his work are the closed eyes of his subjects. “It was in 1971 when I conceived the idea of The Beauty of the Ghetto as an exhibition. And I exposed it to some people who were black to get a reaction. And from one (person) it was very negative. And when I began to express my points of view (to this) professional man, he resisted the notion. And as a result of his comments and his attitude I began to see, observe, how blind we are to one another’s humanity. Blinded by a lot of things that have, perhaps, initiated feelings in that light. We don’t see into the depths of our interconnection.Thx for the thread and for pointing out the eyes being closed, I think I would have missed it.

TheRaven
08-29-2013, 11:45 AM
I was sure I wrote other posts to your replies. Thank everybody for telling me what you think about his art.

Jon
08-30-2013, 04:17 PM
Raven, during the last glitch cycle some posts were lost, I apologize. Let me take this opportunity to thank you again for the presentation of this artist.