Ernie Barnes – Rest in Peace

barnes-sugar-shack

It is with great sadness that I report the passing of artist Ernie Barnes. Most of you know Barnes’ work from his legendary painting “Sugar Shack,” which graced the cover of Marvin Gaye’s equally legendary album “I Want You,” and also appeared every week during the closing credits of the television series Good Times. Even as a child I was mesmerized by Barnes’ work, which had a fluid energy that seemed to come alive. I could practically see the people in his paintings move.

For quite some time, a friend and I have been engaged in a long-running discussion on what it means to be black, or more specifically, what it means to be black in America. This is a never-ending discussing that goes in many directions, but I think it’s important to point out that when I think of what it means to be black, I often think of Ernie Barnes’ paintings. With brush and paint, Barnes created images and told stories that have been burned into my brain and have touched my soul, and have given life to parts of a culture that fuels my being. His passing brings sorrow, but that sorrow of course is balanced by great joy in the incredible legacy he has left behind.

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