Art thieves are often glamorized in Hollywood movies as cat burglars who stealthily enter museums and steal valuable artwork. Turlock's latest group of art burglars didn't rob a museum, but they must have used quite a bit of stealth to make off with a 300 plus pound work of art from a Turlock front yard.
“There are no drag marks. It would have had to be planned,” said Belia Hawkins, owner of the 3 foot high Buddha mask stolen last month.
The giant mask has been on display in Hawkins' yard on Hawkeye Avenue for the last year. It was given to her by a friend who acquired it from the original artist. Hawkins discovered the statue missing on June 8, but she thinks it was stolen the day before. She got a call soon after discovering the mask missing from a friend who wanted to know where it was.
“I put up a stolen sign because I thought people might want to know what happened to it,” Hawkins said.
One community member who saw the sign recognized the unique statue and tipped Hawkins off to where it might be. Hawkins called the police and gave them the information, and they went to the house to investigate. Sure enough, they found a giant stone Buddha mask in the backyard of the house.
“They even had me send over photos of my statue so they could identify it,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins' mask statue was the prototype of a run of statues made by artist Alan Curreri. There were only eight of the Buddha masks made, and the rest of the masks are accounted for. Curreri was contacted when the statue was found, and he was amused by the story. He said that he had lost track of the original prototype.
“I just made it to test the mold and casting to see if it worked. I didn't even know (Hawkins) had it,” Curreri said.
The other Buddha masks produced by Curreri sold for as much as $1,500. He estimated that Hawkins' masked weighed just a little less than the others, but definitely over 300 pounds.
“I was quite surprised they could move it,” Curreri said.
The Turlock Police Department established that the statue was the one that went missing from Hawkins' front lawn. They returned it to its owner in the back of a Turlock Police Department pickup truck.
“The deputy said 'I hope this is your mask because it weighs a lot!'” Hawkins said.
The statue was slightly damaged by the thieves. One side was broken and uneven, as if it had been dragged. It took four men to carry the statue to its new home in a flowerbed by Hawkins' pool.
“We decided to put it in the back yard. We aren't taking our chances again,” Hawkins said.
There is now a sign in the empty spot in the front yard where the mask once stood, thanking the community for the statues' safe return.
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