Mary and Steve Barker say the rock display outside their James Bay home brings smiles to many who pass by. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

French fries to juicy tomatoes, rock art brings joy to walkers in Victoria

James Bay yard filled with painted rocks delights all ages

The beef kebab, baked potato and corn on the cob sizzling on a barbecue outside Mary and Steve Barker’s James Bay home might make a passerby hungry, but biting into one of the many meals on display outside the home would be a big mistake.

The summer barbecue dinner, along with a charcuterie board, apple pie, jar of pickles and case of Ferrero Rocher, is made entirely from rocks.

Mary started working on the rock art display in 2014.

“I was looking for garden ornaments and they’re really expensive,” Mary said. “I like to make my own stuff so I went to the beach and tried to find things that would last in the weather.”

What she found were rocks that looked like french fries.

“And then we find another piece shaped exactly like a piece of steak,” she said. “I noticed the shape of things, the texture of things. And that’s how I started.”

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James Bay artist Mary Barker was inspired to create rock art when she went looking for inexpensive lawn ornaments. Instead, she found rocks shaped like fries and a steak. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

The ‘rock artist’ also makes needlepoint rugs, drawer knobs, quilts, stained glass and more. But her rock display, in a more typical summer season, draws pedicabs and tourists to her front yard.

And it isn’t just food on display – although the bowls of juicy tomatoes, hard-boiled-eggs and crumpets of all kinds would be enough – Mary’s garden also features Russian nesting dolls, a violin, a laptop and an ashtray, complete with half-smoked rock cigarettes. The details are minute – down to the silver of the Diet Coke can and McDonald’s ‘M’ on an order of medium ‘rock’ fries.

Mary says sometimes the rocks, most found on the beach off Dallas Road, decide what they will be. One rock looked so much like a car that she had no choice but to paint on wheels and a windshield.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, Mary has noticed an uptick on visits to her website – the URL is displayed on a ‘rock computer’ in the yard.

She speculates more locals are out exploring the neighbourhood since many businesses are closed.

“Everybody says it makes them smile and even when I make them, they make me feel happy,” she said with a laugh. “I hope they have a good feeling when they walk by.”

Steve, who does most of the gardening, says they get plenty of comments.

“People are really appreciative, I find. They love telling their friends about it,” he said. “It does bring a smile to people’s faces.”

The painted rock display is located on Niagara Street in James Bay. For more information visit rock-art.ca.

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