The American-born Dunedin artist/designer/writer/educator/magician Larry Matthews (1961-2011) has died aged 50. Matthews was known for his ability to relate to people across generations and was a valued member of the Dunedin arts and writing community.

He owned and ran {lanyop} lagniappe small art gallery and espresso cafe in George Street, Dunedin. The gallery opened at night by candlelight and he played piano as background music to the exhibits. As Matthews himself stated in a 2010 Critic interview on his art gallery: “The notion of the Inner Light (that I believe everyone carries within them) is expressed outwardly by the candle and the artwork itself becomes a tangible representation of the Inner Light of the artist. This ‘mystical experience’ is then a direct communication of the viewer and the art through that Light.”

Matthews exhibited artwork in America and New Zealand and his writing appeared in various New Zealand poetry journals and newspapers, including JAAM, Glottis, Takahe, Black Mail Press, Landfall and the Otago Daily Times.

In 2008, Matthews published his sole collection of poetry, Once Happy as Larry, through his Lagniappe Book Arts imprint. He also collaborated with Jenny Powell on her collection Double-Jointed with nine others in 2003. He has more unpublished work written in collaboration with Dunedin poet Cy Mathews.

Matthews was born in Virginia and educated at Kings Park/Kings Glen Elementary School and Lake Braddock Secondary School in the States. He completed his tertiary studies at George Washington University, Virginia Commonwealth University (BFA 1983) and the University of Otago (MCApSc 2003). He was also a Quaker.

Matthews worked first at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoological Park as an exhibit designer, before moving to New Zealand in 1993 where, as an educator, he taught at the Wanganui School of Design and later in the University of Otago’s Design Studies department as a Senior Teaching Fellow.

Matthews will be missed by all those who knew him. PANZA would like to offer their condolences to Larry’s friends and family.

The Octagon Poetry Collective held a memorial poetry reading for Larry on July 13 at Circadian Rhythm in Dunedin to celebrate and remember Larry’s contribution to Dunedin poets and poetry.

Poem tribute by Peter Olds:
There are 3 upsidedown egg cups on a magic cloth on a magic table.
Three children and a man are invited to guess under which cup lies
the small white ball.
A hand moves left, then right,
then buzzes in mid-air like a bumblebee.
Another hand shuffles the cups mysteriously.
“Which one,” he smiles. . . They giggle, shake their heads,
and, WALLA! — the hiding place is revealed. . .
How did he do that in his lovely magic hat?
Fingers like strings, arms like wands.
A ukulele smile.
A glowing face in full living colour.
They drop gold coins into the magic box.
“Thank you,” he lisps politely.
“Have a nice day.”
© Peter Olds
Comment by Peter Olds:  “Will certainly miss Larry on George Street, outside his favourite caf, with his ukulele.”