Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ernie Barnes

I was very touched by the obituary this morning of Ernie Barnes who left pro football to pursue his desire to be an artist.

This was no fleeting thing. "[H]is mother, the former Fanny Mae Geer, ran the household for a prominent lawyer in whose home library young Ernest discovered paintings by the old masters. Overweight and shy as a child, he was encouraged to build his body by a junior high school teacher who caught him drawing in a notebook as he hid from bullies."

The calling came “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!’ ” he wrote on a Web site devoted to his work, “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’d felt on the field into my paintings.”

There's something lovely about all of that. About the notion that violence and power are in art as well as physical aggression. That there's nothing weak about art.

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