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The Day After Hurricane Michael (Photo by Christon Anderson)

WHAT A THOUSAND WORDS CANNOT DESCRIBE: Artist Christon Anderson

BY VAL SCHOGER
PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHRISTON ANDERSON AND ALEIGHSA WRIGHT

“I try to make possible that you will look at my artwork and it will make you think; then, after a while, you come back to it and you will find something new you have not seen before.” – CHRISTON ANDERSON

 

Christon Anderson, wife Kristina, and their two kids Isabel and Coleman live in one of Panama City’s oldest neighborhoods, the Cove, revered for its gnarly moss-covered oak trees that lined the roads before Hurricane Michael wiped them out.

The family witnessed the rage of the storm, occasionally peeking through the windows of their house. There were several trees in the backyard and one large oak in the front yard that was not healthy anymore. The family had been trying to save the old oak, calling on arborists just weeks prior to the storm. “The trees were part of the allure of the neighborhood,” Christon says. “When the wind picked up and the rain came down in sheets, we saw our injured tree fall. We were really upset. But when we came out of the house the morning after the storm, we realized, every tree in the entire neighborhood was down.”

His house fared the storm relatively well compared to so many others in the area. When he and his two kids stepped out to check out the neighborhood, his daughter walked ahead and Christon took a photo with his phone. A few hours later, after sharing the image on social media, he had more than 150 comments—from friends and complete strangers alike. The photo received thousands of shares, likes, and more comments within just a couple of days on social media, stirring emotions in those who have lost everything and those who empathize with the victims.

 

While Christon is used to people interacting with his work as his large art pieces usually stop people in their tracks during exhibitions, the overwhelming response to the photo was unexpected. He only rarely takes to social media and photography is not his usual medium.

A solo exhibit was planned for the end of 2018 at the Panama City Center for the Arts but the storm ruined this opportunity to show his latest work. Many other cultural events had to be canceled as every building dedicated to arts and events in Panama City sustained damage. The Center for the Arts, the Martin Theatre, and the Marina Civic Center are in the process of repair and restoration.

For now, Christon’s artwork sits in his garage that doubles as a studio. He was commissioned to paint murals for a local business in the past months; swerving from his usually abstract style, he created oversized life-like scenes, depicting people in movement—large displays of his great talent.

His usual work conveys his thoughts and impressions in large-format mixed-media pieces. “I try to make possible that you will look at my artwork and it will make you think; then, after a while, you come back to it and you will find something new you have not seen before.” His work often takes on three dimensions with focal points protruding visually or physically—colorful fabric swatches, shiny emblems, gnarly wood, worn leather, torn pages, words from vintage magazines, or pieces of old documents.

A volunteer suddenly shows up at the pulled-up garage door,  styrofoam container in hand. “A hot meal anyone? Or water?” volunteers have been bringing meals and supplies to the neighborhood for days. Christon smiles, “No, we are good.” He did not subject his family to living without electricity. They stayed with friends in Panama City Beach for a few days until the power came back on at his house. He looks at one of his oversized art pieces. It shows a bright blue sky, deep blue water, and objects on the beach. It strangely reminds of the recent photos of the almost completely wiped-out city of Mexico Beach, just a few driving minutes away from Christon’s house. “I try to keep a beach scene around,” the artist says. The water and sky look tranquil. He aptly named it “Slick Calm.” In thought, he reaches for his beard, twisting a few strands into dreads–a trademark move. “I always get a good response on my beach scenes. Like in real life, the beach is messed up a bit.”

“Slick Calm” by Artist Christon Anderson

 

Find out more about the artist
on social media: @christonanderson

Val Schoger

After nine years of working in media, PR and marketing with international engagements in Germany, England, the Caribbean, and the United States, Val first traveled to the Gulf Coast and subsequently to Navarre, Florida in 2003. She was immediately smitten with Northwest Florida and considers it her chosen home. She is excited about the opportunity to share perspectives, innovative ideas, and success stories as the publisher of a magazine that helps promote one of Florida's fastest growing areas.

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