By Leo Byrne, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The body of Chilean artist and painter Jorge Selarón was found yesterday morning on the Lapa steps, or Escadaria Selarón, the landmark and work of art that he created. The cause of his death is currently unknown. The chief of Rio’s homicide department (DH), William Pena said that it was unclear whether or not it was suicide and that nothing had so far been ruled out.
The 65 year-old artist was found with burn marks on his body, which has now been moved to the Instituto Médico-Legal (IML). Paint thinner and other painting materials were also found nearby.
Four people who knew Mr. Selarón were taken for to the DH police headquarters for questioning. Among them was Paulo Sérgio Rabello, one of the artist’s former collaborators who Selarón had reported to the police for threatening behavior last November.
Selarón went to the police after Rabello knocked over his easel and threw his paintings to the ground. The artist also claimed that Rabello had threatened to stab him on two occasions in an attempt to force to him relinquish proceeds from his paintings.
Residents of the area were greatly saddened at the news, but remarked that the painter had not been himself since the threats started. Numerous members of the community noticed that Selarón had been depressed and reclusive in recent months.
Mr Selarón’s landlady Josepina Delcorno, who had known him for 25 years, expressed disbelief at the events and said that she had found him crying two days ago.
Selarón began work on the renowned staircase in the nineties. Over the years he decorated every part of the 215 steps with colorful tiles from around the world. His work transformed the formerly unremarkable stairway into one of Rio’s most popular tourist attractions.
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