A bare space on the wall next to the bar in the Flow Restaurant in Jim Thorpe was the first indication that something was amiss at least to Dawn McKeegan, a part-time employee who, while cleaning the restaurant Tuesday morning noticed that a painting was missing.
"The painting, BEHAVE, isn't on the wall," she said to artist and restaurant owner Victor Stabin. "The BEHAVE painting's gone."
Stabin asked his wife and the restaurant staff but none had seen the painting. He soon came to the conclusion that it must have been stolen, probably sometime on Monday, June 27. That day, the restaurant was closed and Stabin had left town at 10 a.m. to take his mother home, and returned at 6:30 p.m.
Stabin's wife, Joan Morykin, remembered seeing a red truck pull into the rear parking lot, stop briefly, and then leave, not enough time to steal the painting but enough time to pick up the four foot by four foot painting if someone had previously taken it and moved it to the back door.
Stabin, who is credited with designs for nine U.S. Postal stamps and numerous illustrations in major magazines, rarely sells his original artwork. Instead, he makes digital copies of his works and sells the prints. A signed full size print could sell in the $1,000 range.
The last time an original vivid-colored painting by Stabin was sold at auction, and that was 10 years ago, it was sold for $15,000. The painting had been the original of a popular album cover for the band, KISS.
"It had fan appeal but I personally thought this (BEHAVE) was a better piece," Stabin noted.
BEHAVE is an acrylic painting on a sheet of scroll-cut plywood. The illustration features a brunette wearing a sci-fi pointed bra and wielding a ray gun set upon an orange background with the word BEHAVE written across the upper left, with all figures glowing green from the energy of the ray gun.
Stabin has no idea who took the painting, wondering if it was a fan, a malicious act, or a prank. If the intention was to sell the art, Stabin feels that it would be difficult.
"From what I've heard it is very difficult to sell stolen art because you can't publicly display it," he said. "It could be in somebody's basement."
To reduce the chance of any future burglary, Stabin plans to install video cameras in his galleries. With a sense of humor, he quipped, "Imagine if the painting was returned right after the video cameras were installed, and it turned out that the person who took the painting sold video cameras."
Asked how he felt when he discovered that his painting was missing, Stabin replied, "I was a little upset, then I thought about the people losing everything in floods and tornadoes, and whole sections of the world wiped out by tsunamis. I thought – my kids are safe, I only lost a painting."
"If whoever took it wanted to return it, I would say thank you," Stabin said, adding ironically, "if they wanted to return it anonymously, I'd tell them to just leave it at the front door to the restaurant. I don't think anyone would steal it."