Police Hold Balog Painting Claimed by Woman

Ventura police say that by next week they hope to release a painting by artist Michael Balog that was confiscated Friday from an exhibition at the Ventura College gallery.

Police seized the late artist's painting after a woman who claimed to be the owner reported that the picture had been lost or stolen about a year ago.

The woman, Karen Bruns, could not be reached for comment. Police said Bruns notified them last week that she had a receipt proving ownership of the painting, which depicts a nude swimmer.

Detective Dan Elliott, who is investigating the case, said he does not expect criminal charges to be filed. Unless ownership is disputed, he said the painting probably would be returned to Bruns next week.

The popularity of Balog, who was 41 when he killed himself last summer, had soared in the early 1970s and carried his work from Ventura to important New York galleries. At 28, Balog's work was showing in the Museum of Modern Art.

Discouraged by his lack of financial success, Balog returned to Ventura in the late 1970s. His rejection, made worse by drug problems and mental illness, finally drove him to suicide, friends said.

A month-long exhibition of his work closes today at the college gallery.

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