AN art project intended to combine the efforts of indigenous and non-indigenous residents and tourists has been foiled by an act of theft.
American artist Charlie Schneider, and Boolarng Nangamai Cultural Studio founder Kelli Ryan were part of a team overseeing the painting of six canvases at the Kiama Blowhole from February 25 to March 1, including more than 50 indigenous contributors from La Perouse to south of Nowra, and residents and tourists from Kiama.
"A diplomat from the Russian embassy came and he had his children working on it," Ms Ryan said
"You could see from two or three nights how it was starting to morph, just like rock art exposed to the elements."
The canvases were intended to remain at the location for another two weeks to weather naturally and reveal a mix of traditional and non-traditional work, symbolising the community's relationship with the land.
However, they made it only until Saturday before the cable ties on five of them were cut and the art was stolen.
Ms Ryan said the news was met with disbelief and a sense of loss.
"I was like, how do I tell this man, this guest . . .? But probably more of my concern was telling the community," she said.
But she also said the indigenous community saw irony in the theft.
"The connections between Aboriginal people are through the land itself, so nothing will ever cut the ties," she said.
Speaking from his home in the US, Mr Schneider said he was not surprised.
"As an American, all I can say is I recognise a talent for stealing landscapes when I see it," he said.
"It's hard to argue the shame of such a reactionary act."
The documented weathering will be made into a digital exhibition, however a reward will be on offer for the return of the canvases.
Anyone with information should contact Ms Ryan on 0414 322 142.