James Barron, Peter Matthiessen, Florida, and more

This episode of Average Mortal Radio is rated R, for Rain, like the rain which is, at this moment, lashing icy and hard as a swung plank out of the north and west. In our latest episode we talk about Peter Matthiessen and artist James Barron, and their connection with us here on our gray and silver windblown island home, as well as an earlier incarnation of ourselves, a one-point-oh version, if you will, a version raised in Florida and who lived there many, many years, many, many years ago.

This is not about the Florida of condominium-stuttered coasts or drive-through Margarita palaces or even the Florida of the Mouse Who Ate Orlando or old people fitness stepping around the malls every morning. It is the Florida that inspired Peter Matthiessen’s Watson trilogy, which culminated in The Shadow Country, his single volume retelling of the tough people who inhabited the swamps, riverbanks, and boggy mosquitoy mangrove thickets.

I sent James a copy of The Shadow Country last week when I learned he was living in an old river house on the Santa Fe River. The Santa Fe figures prominently in Matthiessen’s Watson novels and here is Matthiessen himself, in a passage that might serve as an introduction to James’ art: Color can threaten, overwhelm, whirling like that – an ant in a kaleidoscope might sense the problem.

James Barron, my cousin, my friend, for too brief a time my neighbor here on Lopez Island, can easily overwhelm with his whirling colors. To see what I mean, go to his website and look at his paintings, drawings, sculpture, and furniture.

And read Peter Matthiessen, look at the colors swirling around you, be drawn into the kaleidoscope, yes, like an ant.


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