J.C. Barnett III is a charismatic Kokomo persona known to put on a Steph Curry-like display with his sweet jump shot. Now his praised and pleasing, 7-piece abstract art collection is vividly on display in the front window and on the featured artist wall of the Kokomo Artworks Gallery.
It debuted during downtown’s First Friday, Artsapalooza, and Strawberry Festival celebrations much to the delight of onlookers. “It’s very sweet,” he smiled. It is a hometown, Main Street salute to his artistic ability and a premier performance for Barnett.
“It’s an awesome feeling to be invited as a guest artist,” he said. “Local artists don’t get the opportunity to be seen in the front window, and it means even more as a Black man to represent Black artists in this community to inspire and show them there is an opportunity for them to be shown in these spaces as well.
“I must credit artist Ramona Daniels,” he added. “She has been a tremendous support to me over the years and has really given me inspiration and encouragement. When she reached out to me, I was thrilled at the opportunity.”
Daniels is the Artworks Gallery coordinator and board member of the Kokomo Arts Association. “This could not have been a more perfect time for him,” opined the popular artist. “What I would like to see is the community appreciate the local artists here in town.
“Most people will go to Kirkland’s or Walmart and get something, or they will go to Carmel and Indianapolis to get a piece, when there are some beautiful artists right here in this town. I would like to see more diversity in the gallery here; not just race, but different genders and different ages.”
The name of Barnett’s display window artistry, “Rejoice & Blossom,” is taken from scripture. The Bible’s Isaiah 35:2 reads. “It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice even with joy and singing; they shall see the glory of Jehovah, the excellency of our God” (ASV). It is the favorite one of his spiritually inspired “Lockridge Collection” which took two years to complete.
“My hand was guided on that piece,” revealed the director of the new Black Student Center at IUK. “It is not always me speaking through my paint brush. Whether it is through the words of the Bible, or whether it is through listening to a sermon, those words inspire me to lay down a particular stroke on a canvas. And then by the end of the work, it is what it is.”
The sermons of orator Dr. Shadrach Meshach (S.M.) Lockridge, a former pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in San Diego who preached there for 40 years, fueled the inspiration for his work. His abstract paintings are composed of “a number of different mediums” from oils to acrylic to alcohol inks.
Barnett, who owns the highly regarded JC Barnett School of Jump Shooting, is also skilled in another art genre. “I love to do portraits. I love to capture people’s likeness,” he said. “I often do that in watercolor. That’s my favorite medium to do that in, but I have also done a number of oil portraits as well.”
How does the multi-talented Barnett, the married father of four children, view himself as an artist?
“The work that I do, and people are able to view – there is an aesthetic quality there that is very pleasing to individuals across the board,” he told me. “That is my hope, and that is my prayer because that allows me to touch hearts and minds and lives of people that don’t necessarily walk the same walk and talk the same talk every day and don’t experience the same things culturally.
“But, it has even greater meaning as a Black artist to me because representing Black artists gives hope and inspiration to young Black individuals who are looking for something to grasp onto and say maybe I can do that one day.”
“The Lord has shown me tremendous favor,” Barnett believes. “When you seek him, He gives you a capacity for more.”
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