Carmen Tisch: Mental health probation for butt-rubbing Clyfford Still painting

It was one of the most bizarre stories of late 2011: The arrest of Carmen Tisch for rubbing her butt on, and urinating near, a Clyfford Still painting whose value was estimated in a police report on view below at $60 million -- although that figure was subsequently revised downward to a mere $30 million. She's now been sentenced, and while she didn't earn any jail time, authorities will be keeping an eye on her for some time to come. As we noted in our original coverage, last November marked the grand opening of the Clyfford Still Museum, a facility devoted to the life and work of the U.S.-born abstract-expressionist, who died in 1980. While Still isn't nearly as well known as Jackson Pollock, with whom he's frequently (and superficially) compared, his bold and often big canvases are beloved by critics and adventurous art aficionados alike.

Among the highlights of the Denver collection is a work with the very Still-like moniker "1957-J-No. 2," whose approximate measurements are nine-and-a-half feet by thirteen feet in size. Here's a look at it:

Tisch had quite a reaction to this piece, according to the statement of probable cause on view below. Around 3:40 p.m. on December 29, the document says Tisch scratched the canvas, then struck it repeatedly before leaning against it with her pants down. She then slid to the floor and urinated.

No, none of her yellow-colored liquid actually wound up on the painting. But the cost for restoring the canvas to its former glory was estimated at $10,000. As for why Tisch acted as she did, authorities originally suspected that she was drunk -- and she has indeed been ordered to undergo alcohol treatment as part of her punishment for what's been termed criminal mischief. However, her main sentence is for what's described by the Denver District Attorney's Office as two years of "mental health probation."

In addition, the DA's office notes that a restitution hearing may still be scheduled -- meaning Tisch could be on the hook for the cost of restoring "1957-J-No. 2" to its original glory -- to go along with its newfound notoriety.

Look below to see a larger version of Tisch's mug shot, followed by the aforementioned probable cause statement.

Carmen Tisch Probable Cause Statement

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts