Art still missing from Avon gallery
Artist Tom Lockhart drove for four hours Monday to attend Diane Stockmar’s hearing in Eagle. But, after Stockmar’s five-minute court appearance at the Eagle County Justice Center, he left with no answers about the fate of two of his paintings.
“Diane stole art work from me, and I have consignment agreements to prove it,” said Lockhart. “She owes me $13,000 for two paintings she sold and had never paid me.”
Lockhart of Monte Vista who came to Monday’s hearing as a potential witness, said he was disappointed the judge continued the case to July 12 without much being said in the courtroom. Bruce Carey, Stockmar’s attorney, requested the case be continued until then because of the amount of evidence in the case.
“Although there’s a lot of discovery in the case, the case is simple,” Deputy District Attorney Karen Romeo told Eagle County Judge Fred Gannett.
Stockmar, 57, of Gypsum a co-owner of the former Dragonfly Art Gallery in Avon, faces nine felony charges – a count of theft, four counts of unauthorized use of a transaction device and four counts of criminal impersonation.
On March 5, Avon police arrested Stockmar on suspicion of impersonating gallery co-owner Adele Arrowsmith to apply for credit cards for her own use. Stockmar is accused of fraudulently using those cards to charge more than $60,000 in personal expenses, police said.
Grappling with the losses
Stockmar, who is out on $15,000 bond, also is accused of failing to pay gallery artists for more than $100,000 of artwork, police said.
“One day I showed up at the gallery and it was closed,” Arrowsmith said. “There was a note that said, ‘Closed for re-hanging.’ But it never opened again.”
Lockhart said he tried to call the gallery phone number and Stockmar’s home number several times but didn’t get an answer.
Doug Arneson, an artist from Glenwood Springs who also had his work on display at the gallery, said when the gallery closed in June 2002 he had no idea where 17 of his paintings were.
“But I was one of the lucky ones,” he said. “I got most of my paintings back. I only lost one painting commissioned by Diane for her husband that she never paid for – she owes me $4,000. I got my paintings back thanks to Adele.”
Although some of the work was recovered, police reports say about $100,000 worth of artwork is still missing.
“I’m horrified about the anxiety and despair of artists who have been victims,” said Arrowsmith, who provided lots of information to the prosecution but declined to make further comments at Romeo’s request.
Police began investigating Stockmar in 2002, when the Dragonfly Art Gallery went out of business. Stockmar and Arrowsmith, who was then using her married name of Douglas, agreed to open the art gallery in 1999 with Arrowsmith as the financial backer and Stockmar as the art gallery expert. The partnership began to dissolve soon after the gallery opened, the affidavit says.
According to police, Stockmar told Arrowsmith to stay out of the gallery because she frightened customers away. A year and a half after the gallery opened, Arrowsmith wanted to close the gallery because there was no record of any sales taking place.
“But I had no idea the gallery had closed,” Arrowsmith said after Monday’s hearing.
Lockhart said he recovered nine paintings. Through the police investigation he learned two others had been sold, he said. Overall, 2002 was a bad year, he said.
“A gallery in Taos did a similar thing,” he said. “But they eventually paid me.”
This was the second time that Arneson lost work through a gallery.
“The first time was in Florida,” he said. “But I never pursued any legal action. It’s too far away, and it would have cost a lot.”
Despite those experiences, Lockhart said most galleries are very reputable and pay their artists well.
“I’ve been with the Vail Fine Art Gallery for more than a year, and they pay their artists every month,” Arneson said.
Lockhart said his financial losses haven’t ended with the missing paintings.
“You go through a lot of expenses because she was dishonest,” he said. “I’m spending money traveling to follow the case and to find another gallery for my work.”