UTSA Professor thrifts rare painting

Dr. William Pugh donates ‘Eve in the Rose Garden’ by Keith Bankston to the Tubman African-American Museum

Riley Carroll, Arts & Life Editor

Earlier this year, Associate Professor of Practice of Information Systems and Cyber Security, Dr. William Pugh, Ph.D. traveled to Covington, Ga. with his wife to attend a wedding. Little did he know that one recreational trip to an antique mall would lead him to find a rare and historical piece of art.

Upon sifting through a vendor’s booth, Pugh discovered a brightly-colored painting that caught his eye.

“So I pulled [the painting] out and looked at it, like ‘Wow, this is very interesting. It’s quite colorful,’” Pugh shared. “You can see that the subject the woman and the serpent [and] I knew that the inspiration probably came from the famous photograph from the early 80s. The title was on the back ‘Eve in the Rose Garden,’ and it was also signed in pen by the artists, so I was like ‘Well, maybe there’s some history or story here. So I quickly Google searched the artist and sure enough, it was someone in Macon, Georgia, and the Tubman museum already had a painting of his. The more I researched the story, the more I felt that it had some value there in the community — [with the artist] being a young African-American.”

Pugh recognized that the late Keith Bankston’s painting was a reconceptualization of Richard Avedon’s 1981 photograph “Nastassja Kinski and the Serpent.” Bankston paired Avedon’s photo with his own biblical twist by depicting “Nastassja Kinski and the Serpent” in the Garden of Eden — hence, the title “Eve in the Rose Garden.”

“I learn[ed] more about [art] appropriation, it’s reconceptualizing the art of someone else,” Pugh explained. “So he [took] that and put that in this rose garden. I also thought it was interesting that he chose a rose garden instead [of] saying Garden of Eden, which is typically the story from the Bible.”

Since the rare find, Pugh and his wife have planned on visiting “Eve in the Rose Garden” at the Tubman Museum in the future.

“We will eventually travel that way at some point in time and we’ll make an attempt to go down there and visit,” Pugh expressed. “I would like to see the other artwork, I just caught a glimpse of it.”

For more information about the Tubman African-American Museum and to view more of Bankston’s works, visit https://www.tubmanmuseum.com/georgia-artists/.