Painting by Chatham artist is among items listed in indictment of former Virginia governor

Heather MacKenzie’s  “Seals at Chatham Bars Inn.” The painting is among several items allegedly purchased for former Virginia  governor Bob McDonnell by the owner of a nutritional supplement company called Star Scientific. (Handout)
Heather MacKenzie’s “Seals at Chatham Bars Inn.” The painting is among several items allegedly purchased for former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell by the owner of a nutritional supplement company called Star Scientific. (Handout)

Normally, Heather MacKenzie wouldn’t take any special pleasure in seeing a politician snared in scandal. But in the case of Bob McDonnell, the former governor of Virginia who along with his wife was indicted last week on federal corruption charges accusing them of accepting tens of thousands of dollars in loans, shopping sprees, and gifts, MacKenzie (inset) would be lying if she said she wasn’t smiling just a little. MacKenzie is a painter and photographer in Chatham, and one of her watercolors is on the list of items allegedly purchased for the McDonnells by the owner of a nutritional supplement company called Star Scientific. If convicted, the McDonnells would have to hand over MacKenzie’s painting and the rest of the goodies on the list, including some black Louis Vuitton shoes, white Louis Vuitton shoes, a cream-colored Louis Vuitton wallet, a blue Armani jacket, a silver Rolex watch, and so on. “All press is good press, I guess,” MacKenzie told us Monday. “It makes me feel good that my watercolor ended up in the governor’s mansion — however it got there.” It’s not clear how, it got there. But what we know is that the original painting, “Seals at Chatham Bars Inn” (below), was bought at the Nickerson Art Gallery in Chatham in 2012, and shipped to Jonnie R. Williams Sr., CEO of Star Scientific. (The painting was priced at $1,200.) Last week, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow read the list of items being eyed by the feds, and MacKenzie’s painting was among them. “My sister-in-law happened to be watching [Maddow’s] show, and heard my name,” says the artist. “Her eyes bugged out and she practically spat out her tea. Then my phone started ringing off the hook.” The mention has meant more traffic for MacKenzie’s website — she had nearly 1,000 new visits the next day — but it’s not yet translated into sales. “I don’t like to see anybody brought down, but in some ways it’s just desserts for doing wrong.”

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