UTSA prof finds work by celebrated Georgia artist at thrift store

Frequent thrift shoppers know that low-cost treasure often lurks at the bottom of the bins. Everything from a gently used designer bag to a carefully preserved relic from antiquity could be yours for the taking. Who can forget the Roman bust rescued from an Austin Goodwill? Recently, a University of Texas at San Antonio professor made such a discovery: a painting by the beloved Georgia artist Keith Bankston. 

First conceived in 1982, the painting is one of Bankston’s early-career works, entitled “Eve in the Rose Garden.” Its return to the spotlight began when it was spotted propped up in the middle of a Georgia thrift store. William Pugh, an assistant professor of practice for the UTSA Department of Information Systems and Cyber Security, purchased it with his wife while vacationing in Covington, Georgia. 

A former history major, Pugh tells UTSA Today that he was initially drawn to the discount-store painting, depicting an encounter that led to Adam and Eve’s banishment from the Garden of Eden in the Book of Genesis, for its apparent biblical themes, warm hues, and elements of folklore. 

“It’s not necessarily mentioned in The Bible, but there are legends and stories that say that before Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, roses didn’t have thorns,” Pugh explained to the university publication. “He depicts that perspective in this painting.”

Noticing a striking blue signature in the bottom corner, Pugh realized his fortune and quickly began researching the late artist. 

According to the Digital Library of Georgia, Bankson, a celebrated Black artist, was born and raised in Macon, Georgia and began to pursue art seriously after a trip to Paris after high school. After attending Florida State, he returned to Georgia to teach art and establish himself as an artist in his community. Tragically, his career was abbreviated after he passed away from AIDS in 1992 at the age of 34. 

Pugh discovered that several other works by the late artist are currently housed at the Tubman African American Museum in Macon.

Realizing its significance, Pugh purchased the painting for $125. Ultimately, he decided that his house wasn’t the piece’s final destination. The UTSA professor didn’t hesitate to contact the museum and begin the donation process. 

“I really like it. But something like this — by a known artist in Georgia — would provide the most benefit in a museum in Georgia where everyone else can enjoy it,” Pugh said.

The painting was shipped and arrived at the Tubman Museum on Wednesday, July 20. It has yet to be appraised for its value. 

“Keith Bankston is a beloved figure in the art community in Macon. His story is a kind of tragic tale of what could have been — of great potential that was never fully realized due to the AIDS epidemic,” Jeff Bruce, Director of  Exhibitions for the Tubman Museum, told UTSA Today. “His light was just beginning to shine, so we honor the promise of his talent by collecting and exhibiting his work, and by sharing the story of his short but impactful career with young people in Middle Georgia, as well as visitors from across the country.”

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.