Friday, July 15, 2016

Arty Farty Friday ~ Ernie Barnes

Ernie Barnes, a former professional football player, was born this day: 15 July in 1938. He became a successful figurative painter, known for depictions of athletes and ordinary people at sport, work and play. His signature was muscled, elongated characters, expressing palpable energy.

As I looked at the Google Image page of his artwork I thought: bet he had Mars prominent in his natal chart - I can feel it!

From an obituary by Elaine Woo in the LA Times, in 2009, when Mr Barnes died, from complications of a rare blood disorder, aged 70.

Barnes was a child of the segregated South who transcended racial barriers to play for the Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers before pursuing his real dream: to be an artist. He became the official artist of the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, whose insights from his trials on the gridiron resulted in powerful, sometimes haunting portraits of agility, strength and the emotional costs of fierce competition.

His style, which critics have described as neo-Mannerist, became familiar to a prime-time television audience in the mid-1970s when producer Norman Lear hired Barnes to "ghost" the paintings by the Jimmie Walker character "J.J." in the groundbreaking African American sitcom "Good Times."

As the backdrop for the show's closing credits, Lear used Barnes' 1971 painting "Sugar Shack," his most famous work. Singer Marvin Gaye later adapted the painting as the cover art for his 1976 album, "I Want You."

"Sugar Shack" shows a Brueghel-like mass of bodies, writhing and jumping to the rhythms in a black jazz club. There is joy, tension and despair in the canvas, which Barnes once said was inspired by a memory of being barred from attending a dance when he was a child. As in nearly all of his paintings, the subjects' eyes are closed, a reflection of the artist's oft-stated belief that "we are blind to each other's humanity."

Singer-songwriter Bill Withers, who was close to Barnes during the last decade of his life, said the artist often spoke of wanting to educate people through his art.

"He meant getting people to look past the superficial into the real vulnerable parts of themselves," said Withers, for whom Barnes completed his last major commission, a painting inspired by Withers' 1971 hit "Grandma's Hands." "He wanted to help people peel away that layer of protection that we all wear to ward off any intrusion into our real private thoughts. He didn't mind people looking deeper into him. I found that fascinating."

Barnes was born into a working-class family in Durham, N.C., on July 15, 1938. His father was a shipping clerk for a large tobacco company, and his mother was a domestic for a wealthy attorney. She brought home books and records that her employer no longer wanted and used them to broaden the cultural horizons of her three sons. She encouraged them to draw pictures from their imaginations instead of using coloring books. The shy and overweight Ernie began drawing to escape from the taunts of his schoolmates. (More at the link.)

ASTROLOGY, briefly:

What did I say at the top of the post?
Sun conjunct Mars - and Pluto.
This is a 12noon chart as Mr Barnes' time of birth isn't known. Natal Moon might have been in late Aquarius or early Pisces - hard to guess which. If pressed, I'd gamble on Aquarius due to the artist's gravitation to depicting groups of people; and his comment, as mentioned above: " nearly all of his paintings, the subjects' eyes are closed, a reflection of the artist's oft-stated belief that "we are blind to each other's humanity." I guess that could reflect Piscean sensitivity too though, so Moon position remains a mystery.


anyjazz said...

Good review of a largely overlooked artist.

Twilight said...

anyjazz ~ Thanks!

Cindy Dy said...

So happy to be given a privilege to post a comment here. You have a wonderful site. Thank you for the effort to publish this.