Not a lot of great painters were also professional football players. Ernie Barnes was an American artist who grew up in the South during the Jim Crowe era. Despite the numerous challenges, he worked hard, her persisted and he succeeded. As a teenager, a coach mentored Barnes helping him to become captain of the football team and a state champion at shot put. He attended a historically black university on an athletic scholarship but he majored in art. After college, Barnes went on to play pro football, but the owner of the New York Jets saw that Ernie Barnes was more valuable applying his talents to the canvas rather than the field. In the 1960s, Barnes quickly started gaining critical acclaim. His first show in New York sold out. His paintings not only hung in galleries, but also in pop culture on album covers and perhaps most famously on the television series Good Times.
For this episode, my good friend and fellow elementary art teacher, Chuck Hoff discussed the history, and the incredible artistry of Ernie Barnes. We referenced a few pieces, but primarily focused our analysis on his painting The American Dream.