June 21, 2018
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Paintings worth $7,500 stolen on MDI

By Bill Trotter, BDN Staff

SOUTHWEST HARBOR, Maine — Three paintings, each worth $2,500, have been reported stolen from a local art gallery, according to police.

Lt. Mike Miller of the Southwest Harbor Police Department said Thursday the paintings were discovered missing from Salty Dog Gallery in the village on Dec. 20. The owner of the gallery was out of town from Oct. 15 until Dec. 20 and found out the three paintings were missing upon his return, Miller said.

The reported theft of the paintings is the latest in several high-value art thefts, only some of which have been solved, on and around Mount Desert Island in recent years.

Miller said there was no indication of forced entry at the local gallery, located at 322 Main St., but that the owner had found a rear door was open.

Philip Steel, who painted the paintings and owns the gallery, indicated in an email Thursday that the three missing pieces were among 35 paintings he has been planning to send to the Appleton Museum of Art at College of Central Florida in Ocala, Fla., for an exhibit of his work. According to Steel’s website, Steel is a signature member of the American Society of Marine Artists, a member of the Florida Watercolor Society and a Fellow Member of the American Artist Professional League.

The Appleton Museum of Art website describes Steel as an “award-winning New England artist whose nautical themed works reflects his knowledge of the sea and respect for those who make a living from the ocean.”

Steel said he wants to spread word about the apparent theft, and what the paintings look like, to help in getting them recovered and to prevent them from being sold by whoever has them.

“It’s hard to fence paintings,” Steel said.

Steel indicated in an email Friday that he still plans to send 33 of his paintings to Ocala for the exhibit, which is scheduled to open on Jan. 21.

Lt. Miller said the Police Ddepartment does not have any leads on the thefts at this time. Anyone with information that might help police find the paintings is asked to call the Police Department at 244-7911.

In the past decade or so, there have been at least two other thefts involving expensive paintings in the MDI area, as well as other thefts of jewelry and sculpture.

In 2004, the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department received a complaint about three pieces of art with a total value of more than $1,000 that were stolen from a house on Route 102 in the Tremont village of Bass Harbor. None of the pieces, including a painting of a skier by renowned artist Leroy Nieman, was ever recovered and no one was ever charged in that case.

In 2001, a Jamestown, R.I., man stole approximately 30 paintings, prints and photographs with a total worth of more than $10,000 from houses on Great Cranberry Island, off MDI. The next year, Fernand Malouin, then 51 years old, pleaded guilty to the burglaries in Hancock County Superior Court and received a fully suspended sentence of 18 months in jail.

In September of this year, jeweler Lisa Hall, whose work has been featured on Martha Stewart’s television show and in her magazine, reported to police that someone had stolen 17 gold rings from her shop in the Mount Desert village of Northeast Harbor. That case remains under investigation, according to Mount Desert police.
Other break-ins and thefts in the area, including the 1999 theft of a $60,000 bronze sculpture from a home in Sorrento, occasionally have included the theft of antiques or art among other items of value that burglars have taken. Police later recovered the unharmed bronze statue.

Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.

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