Little is known about Barton, who appears to have been an influential figure among a small coterie of gay Beat artists in San Francisco in the 1950s and 60s. Raised in New York City, he received some formal art training and was a voracious autodidact. Influenced by Chinese line painting and scrolls, which he encountered on a visit to China in the 1940s, he worked primarily in ink. He preferred to draw in coffee shops in the North Beach neighborhood, which was a locus of Beat activity in San Francisco. Sometimes using a yatate, an antique Japanese implement incorporating a portable inkpot and a small brush, he filled sheets and accordion-fold sketchbooks with figures and interiors that vibrate with nervous energy. He produced La Reina de Mexico on one of several trips to Mexico. Churches appear to have been some of his favorite subjects; among his other works is a portfolio of linoleum block prints of San Francisco's churches.