Crime

Nearly 300 paintings stolen from the back of a truck in Los Banos

Nearly 300 paintings and sketches were stolen from the back of a truck in Los Banos over the weekend and the artist is asking for the public’s help locating the art that represents more than six years of his life.

Artist Maximo Gonzalez has been working on a project since 2011 aimed at raising environmental awareness through art. The paintings and drawings — about 268 in total — were being transported from Dallas, Texas to the Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga, Gonzalez said in a telephone interview Monday.

The artwork was stored in boxes in the back of a locked truck. The driver stopped to rest Friday night at the Maple Inn on East Pacheco Boulevard in Los Banos. On Saturday morning, he returned to the truck and found the artwork had been taken, Los Banos Police Cmdr. Ray Reyna said.

Reyna said the artwork consisted of about 130 paintings and 138 drawings or sketches on canvass.

Authorities were working with the artist on Monday to determine the exact value of the missing work.

Lori Wood, a program manager for a residency program at the center, fears whoever took Gonzalez’s artwork may not have known what they were taking and may have discarded the pieces afterward.

The artwork depicts a series of dead and dying trees meant to trigger conversations about the health of forests in particular and the environment in general around the world. He’s been working on the project all over the world for more than six years.

“We’re so sad that all those efforts might just disappear,” Gonzalez said.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Sean Bayard at 209-827-7070 ext. 115.

To leave an anonymous crime tip call 209-827-7070, ext. 288. If you have access to a computer and the internet you can also leave an anonymous tip at the Police Department’s web page at www.losbanos.org. At the bottom of the “Contact” page simply click on the “report graffiti and other crime” link or contact the Merced Area Crime Stoppers by telephone at 1-855-725-2420, or at www.mercedareacrimestoppers.org.

Rob Parsons: 209-385-2482

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