While not quite the crime of the century, the disappearance of a matched set of paintings by Augusta-area artist Billy S. did have elements of a great heist story.
On a January evening in 2006, the paintings, collectively called Egami Image, disappeared from the wall of Soul Bar during a First Friday rush. Despite the crowd, nobody seemed to see the paintings leave the wall and nobody saw them walk out the door. Despite requests from the always-positive Billy for the return of the work and even an offer in this column to act as a courier should the art be anonymously returned, the paintings remained missing.
And while the Soul Bar Heist of ’06 was never completely forgotten, it was relegated to local folklore, a semi-legendary tale discussed over drinks or recounted to entertain newcomers who weren’t around when Egami went into the wind. As the months and years passed, it was widely assumed that the disappearance of the paintings would remain a mystery.
Last week, I received a message from Billy S. letting me know that Egami Image had been returned.
The crime, evidently, had not been hard to commit. Frames were snapped, canvases tucked under shirts and escapes made through the front door. A daring crime aided and abetted, I would imagine, by a little – or a lot – of liquid courage.
That’s how the paintings disappeared. How they reappeared is a mystery.
What we do know is this.
Last week, the paintings were dropped off at Beveled Edge, a gallery/framing shop in North Augusta that carries Billy’s art. Confessing to being dumb and 18 (who among us has not been there?), the pair (all great heists require a team) left the paintings and, as they had more than 10 years ago, disappeared.
Word is, burdened by guilt and uncertainty as to the statute of limitations placed on art thieves, neither wanted the purloined paintings in their house.
What I believe is this. Billy S. is known for a lot of things. He is known for his distinctive art. He is known for his music. But what he is best known for is his positivity, for his desire and ability to spread smiles and, for lack of a better term, good vibes, into the universe.
He offers smiles and optimism without the expectation of anything in return – and often that will be the case. It was not the case this time. It might have taken a decade, but Billy’s work has returned to him, and I believe it was a little of the good karma Billy spreads coming back to him. That’s something we can all feel positive about.