Artist’s home burns to the ground; another daunting hurdle to overcome
Altbach sued for $1.5 million for defamation. Ultimately, the appellate court dismissed the suit, though Kulon had to pay a small fine for violating a temporary restraining order prohibiting him from displaying the picture.
Other paintings followed, featuring other public figures including former judge Anthony Kane and former district attorney Steve Lungen. Kulon says the pictures, which feature a lot of nudity, were humorous; others saw them as scandalous. One of them is now housed in a museum in Dallas, TX.
In the spring of 2003, another controversy erupted. A painting by Kulon featuring three cherubs, one of which is holding the pin of a hand grenade that is about to land on two children, was hung in the Sullivan County Government Center with many other paintings. After a single day, however, county officials ordered that the picture be taken down. Ira Cohen then was the county attorney.
Kulon sued on freedom of expression grounds, and the court wrote, Cohen’s “decision to remove the painting was, by Cohen’s own account, plainly content-based: he was upset that it depicted violence.” Kulon won a $40,000 settlement in 2007.
But now the house and the paintings that were at the center of Kulon’s life, work and reputation, have gone up in smoke.
In the latest painting he was working on, Kulon was once again going to paint a representation of the criminal justice system in Sullivan County. He said this one would be bigger and more intense than the ones that had gone before.
But, he said, in this painting he would not use the likenesses of real officials. He said most of the officials whom he believes acted with favoritism toward the good old boys are out of power, and some of the outrage he feels toward some officials seems to be fading a bit.
Still, he has no regrets about depicting local officials with horns or practically naked. He said, “I was so gentle with those guys.” The pictures can still be seen at kulon.us.
A foundation is being set up to take donations to rebuild Kulon’s home.