When it comes to art, no regrets

Published 8:50 am Saturday, April 21, 2012

Before I walked away from her booth, I already knew that Jean Lake was right.

I was going to regret not buying her painting that kept drawing me back time and time again.

But I didn’t have the $150 she was asking and didn’t have any means of getting it.

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If I had, that painting would have been mine and I would have no regrets.

Just what year that was, I’m not sure.

The arts and crafts show was on the grounds of the Pike Pioneer Museum and I wanted that painting so badly. It reminded me of the days of my childhood with Dora at the wash pot and “me” and my friend Louise playing in the clean-swept yard.

“If you don’t get it, you’ll always regret it,” Jean Lake prophesied.

I do not have a Jean Lake original hanging in my house. But I do have a few things, including a program that she illustrated. But they “ain’t the real things.”

And, although I had access to many, many of Pugh Windham’s woodcarvings, I only have one.

Each November when “cuz” Charles Adams was getting ready for his annual open house on Thanksgiving weekend, we would load up in his car and make the pilgrimage to Mr. Pugh’s house with a bag of boiled peanuts and two co-colas between us.

Mr. Pugh wouldn’t “loan” his carvings to anybody else but he trusted Charles and let him show and sell his carvings at the holiday show.

Charles and I would wrap up the carvings and box them for the trip with great care and, as I wrapped each one, Mr. Pugh would say, “You’d better get that one,” and, when I whined about the lack of money, he would say, “Well, I may not be here next year.”

But next year, he was still there and I still didn’t the money.

One year, I did scrape up enough money to buy his carving of Mark Twain, who is a favorite of mine.

“Why did you put him in a coffin?” I asked.

“That’s not a coffin,” Mr. Pugh replied in such a tone that it surprised me. “What’s wrong with you? That’s a steamboat.”

And a closer look revealed that it was.

“The next year, Mr. Pugh tried to get me to buy a carving of a lady, who I assumed to be Marilyn Monroe, with her skirttail flying over her head.

I didn’t tell him that I didn’t want a carving like that so I just fell back on the lack of money.

A year or so later, I had stopped out on a country road to take pictures and Charles was running his mail route. He stopped to tell me that Mr. Pugh had died.

Right then and there, I regretted not having done like he said and “get this one.”

If I could go back, I would rob a bank or knock off the Brinks’ van and buy more than my share of his wonderful carvings and that $150 masterpiece that Jean Lake said I would regret not buying.

But, there’s no going back.

But I can admire and appreciate their artwork because others either had better heads on their shoulders than I do or more money.

Whether you knew Jean Lake and Pugh Windham or not, the opportunity to know and appreciate their talents is here and now.

The Pike County Masters: Jean Lake and Pugh Windham exhibition opens Tuesday at the Johnson Center for the Arts and will run through May 30.

It would be regretful if all of Pike County doesn’t make time to pay tribute to these two masters who have captured the people and places of the South that we remember and love.