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May 12, 2021

New lead in missing painting case

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Paul Bibby

Somewhere in the Northern Rivers lies a beautiful, untitled painting of a woman without a face.

It’s a stylish work that is striking enough to catch any art lover’s eye.

But this meticulously crafted piece isn’t where it’s supposed to be.

On December 5 it fell off the back of local artist Toni Clarke’s ute on Main Arm Road, and is now believed to be in the hands of a passer-by.

Local artist Toni Clarke’s missing painting. Supplied

‘I was taking it and some other pieces into the Byron School of Art [BSA] for my graduation,’ Ms Clarke says.

‘I didn’t notice that the rope had snapped and the painting had flown off until I got to Mullum.’

A painstaking search ensued, with Ms Clarke’s teachers and husband all involved, but to no avail.

Now, a new lead has emerged in the case.

‘I got a message from a woman saying “I know something about the painting”,’ Ms Clarke says.

The woman had been at a garage sale where, earlier that day, a woman in her 20s had shown up with a bubble-wrapped painting in the back of her ute.

The owners of the house hosting the sale had looked at the painting and seen Ms Clarke’s name written on the back along side the $1600 price tag.

‘The hosts didn’t get the woman’s name, but apparently she said ‘I’ll try and find the owner”,’ Ms Clarke relates.

‘Apparently she was from Uki and she was driving a white ute.’

Yet, despite the painting now seemingly in safe hands, Ms Clarke heard nothing.

‘I’m of the belief that the person who found it may not actually want to find me,’ she says.

‘If I found someone’s painting who lived in the Northern Rivers I reckon I’d be able to find them in 24 hours.

‘It’s great that they seem to like the painting but I really need it back.’

Ms Clarke says she bears has no hard feelings toward the woman, and is happy for the painting to be dropped off anonymously at BSA or Sunshine Traders in Mullumbimby with no questions asked.

‘I’d be more than happy to give her another painting from my collection as a reward,’ she says.

‘But that particular painting had hung in my studio for three months. Every week I’d just do a tiny bit more because I didn’t want to overwork it.

‘I put my soul into these paintings. I dance with them, I sing to them – they’re like my children. I need to have it back to have closure of this story.’

Anyone with information about the whereabouts of the pairing is asked to call Toni on 0498 971 468.

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