$20k sculpture destined for charity auction stolen from B.C. island studio

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew

Galiano Island is one of those idyllic pieces of heaven of which British Columbia seems generously endowed but apparently there's a snake in this little corner of paradise.

Someone walked into the New Sun Studio gallery on the island and stole a $20,000 sculpture that artist Sam Hesse intended to donate to a hospital fundraiser, the Victoria Times Colonist reported.

The black chlorite, 80-kilogram stone carving, called Superfly, disappeared the week of Halloween but, perhaps in true laid-back Gulf Islander fashion, Hesse didn't report it missing until Nov. 13.

The sculpture depicts a cormorant wearing a superman suit. Hesse had planned to donate it to Super Heroes of Victoria, a charity that works to raise awareness for B.C. Children's Hospital.

Superfly, which took four months to carve, was previously displayed in Vancouver, Ucluelet, on Vancouver Island, Whistler and a Galiano hotel.

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"It was really kind of devastating," Super Heroes founder Mark Ashfield, told the Times Colonist.

The organization had planned a spring sponsorship auction for the donated work, with the proceeds going to the hospital.

"Having a sculpture — it would be a great visual to show you've got a whole community supporting you," Ashfield said.

Hesse's theme of the sculpture - "reaching in and discovering your own superhero self," fit well with the organization's mandate.

"It's hard," he said. "I'm in a position where it's a small community and it's hard to start speculating on people who may have done [this]. It's hard for me to believe that it was someone off-island, just under the circumstance of where it was."

Hesse, who operates New Sun Studio, rents space in a warehouse that is also used by hunters and fisherman, the Times Colonist said.

Many of the island's artists work on an honour system, allowing visitors into galleries and studios even if the artist is not there. They can sign visitor books and contact the artist at home if they're interested in learning more.

"I've just got to leave it up to police and hope they do something," Hesse said.

Galiano clay artist Sandra Dolph was also robbed, telling police several works were taken from her studio last August, the Times Colonist said.

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"Those are the only two that I'm aware of in the last three years," said Const. Ewan DeWolfe of the Outer Gulf Island RCMP.