Unknown Victoria

Victoria: The Unknown City is a guidebook to an eccentric town on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. This is the author's blog. Look here for Victoria lore, updates and additions to the book, and hate mail.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Couch Therapy

Rich Matthews, a.k.a. Rich Rico, is living proof that you don’t need a committee or city approval to create public art that the public actually appreciates. Over the past four years, he’s been steadily at work on his Jurassic Faces Out of The Blue, a bench built of driftwood he’s brightly painted to resemble dragons, whales, and other animals – much to the delight of passersby on the Westsong Walkway. A true folk artist (and longstanding Victorian), Matthews says he simply sees faces in nature, and feels he has to bring them out. One of his first pieces was the smiling gorilla in the huge boulder on the beach at Mt. Douglas Park (below left). “I’m thinking of doing a 30-ton rock I keep passing on the highway near Chemainus – it looks like a lion.”

There is a serious face to his creations, however. Matthews says that in 2002 he was diagnosed with Graves’ disease, a thyroid condition that had shriveled him to a weight of 100 pounds. He was living in a house near the Westsong Walkway, so he started building the bench as therapy – and now says he’s well again. “I got healed by all the good wishes.” Unfortunately they haven’t been shared by the harbour commissioners, who once considered the bench a safety problem and tore it down, forcing him to build the more robust structure on the beach today. Perhaps they should follow the prescription he’s painted on it: “Sit and enjoy the moment.”


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