‘A diamond in the rough’: UTSA professor buys rare, original painting in Georgia thrift store

A UTSA professor visited a thrift store in Georgia in May, but little did he know that he’d walk away with a rare treasure.

William Pugh, an assistant professor of practice for the UTSA Dept. of Information Systems and Cyber Security, was shopping with his wife in Covington, Ga., when he came across a breathtaking artwork.

The painting, titled “Eve in the Rose Garden” by Keith Bankston, showed a scene in the Garden of Eden of the deceiving serpent lying across Eve, appearing to whisper in her ear. The scene stems from the stories in the Book of Genesis in the Holy Bible.

Pugh said he was drawn to the painting initially due to its Biblical theme.

“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 said in a news release. “(The artist) depicts that perspective in this painting.”

The painting was priced at $125, but when Pugh’s eyes caught the artist’s blue signature in the lower right-hand corner, he realized it was a small price to pay for an original piece.

After researching the painting and its artist, Pugh found other paintings from Bankston in a collection at the Tubman African American Museum in Macon. It wasn’t long before he decided to make a contribution.

“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.

He spoke to the museum’s director of exhibitions, Jeff Bruce, and said he wanted to donate the painting, though a value for the piece has yet to be determined.

“Even if it’s worth substantially more, I’ve always had the inclination that I wanted to donate it,” Pugh said. “The Tubman Museum in Macon is the perfect place for it.”

The painting was shipped to the museum, and it arrived Wednesday, July 20. The artwork joins other Bankston pieces as part of the museum’s collection.

You can learn more about the painting below, courtesy of UTSA:

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