On Saturday, May 30, Long Beach lost a luminary.
Slater Barron’s art is in the Smithsonian White House Collection, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Long Beach Museum of Art, and the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museums. She has appeared on television shows including "The Tonight Show" starring Johnny Carson, "Real People" with David Ruprecht, and "Visiting with Huell Howser."
The beloved artist took an indirect and unconventional path to prominence. After college, she married a Marine officer and moved to various posts around the world. When she lived in France, she studied painting and art history, awakening interests that pushed her in a new direction.
Barron’s daughter, Jennifer Lin, said her mother faced numerous challenges, like moving every 12 to 18 months with four kids, returning to college later in life, dealing with divorce, and managing single motherhood.
“She was an amazing mother,” Lin said. “She met life head on and made a name for herself (literally changing her first name to her maiden name Slater) in her 40s. She hung out with people closer to our age than hers and gave much of herself to them, part mentor, part mother.”
Barron’s mentor mentality drew people to her. According to artist friends Terry Braunstein and Sue Ann Robinson, Barron’s annual garden parties provided an invaluable point of connection within the Long Beach art community.
“People dropped by all afternoon,” Robinson said. “I have no idea how many artists came each year, but the garden was full!”
Barron did performance art, she painted, she published a book, and she created collages. However, she is most famous for her work with lint. Known as the “Lint Lady,” she became fascinated with dryer lint while doing loads of laundry for her teenage children. Finding beauty in this byproduct, she began to experiment with the material. Friends collected their lint and sent it to her, helping her amass an array of textures and colors.
In 1988, Barron met Huell Howser and filmed a segment for his PBS program. She showed him a life-size installation of a room made from lint. Sculpted versions of her parents sat on a couch in that room; their faded lint bodies and lint surroundings acted as a metaphor for the mental fading caused by their battle with Alzheimer’s.
Viewers were fascinated by the “Lint Lady,” so Howser visited her Long Beach studio for a follow-up interview 20 years later. There, Barron displayed the playful side of her work, showing him three-dimensional boxes of candies and plates full of sushi made from the “throwaway” lint matter. She laughed at the irony of food pieces crafted from trash.
Barron’s happy nature was infectious. Friend Carol Norcross said, “just walking down the street with her was an adventure.” But her work with Alzheimer’s was very serious. A series of portraits, showing her mother’s yearly deterioration, were hung in the gallery of the USC Institute for Genetic Medicine. Barron participated in the University of Southern California Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center’s (ARDC) Brain Research Study and has donated her brain for their research.
Slater Barron is survived by three daughters, Janet Barron-Jung, Jennifer (John Lin), Maribeth (Michael Gillis), a son Scott (Judy Sugino), seven grandchildren, and three nieces and nephews. She has requested that donations in her memory be given to the USC Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center or the Long Beach Museum of Art.