Louisville Magazine

JUL 2016

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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54 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 7.16 "How do I identify art? I don't know. It's an emotional reaction and it seems to be an ability that I have." Wilson defnitely doesn't want to drown. Not a good swimmer. He's left-handed. He's heard left-handed people are more prone to accidents. At least that's what the actuary test suggested. Wilson doesn't believe in heaven. "Certainly no one knows where we go when we die," he says. He grew up Methodist — his parents both devout — but religion didn't take with him. Could've been the judgmental spirit of the Word: If you don't believe in my heaven, you're a sinner! He guesses he was baptized as a baby, but his sister remembers later, Easter Sunday. At church services, Wilson would sit in the pews, look past his mother — the church organist — and daydream that the choir was a band, the sanctuary a nightclub. When he was 21, Wilson went to Tailand as part of a 4-H Farm Youth Exchange. "I met people that were so pure and good and happy. Tey were poor, but they didn't care. Tey shared when they had nothing to share," Wilson says, remembering the "bed" a family made for him because they heard Americans slept in beds — a platform of raised boards, essentially the foor on legs. "Tey were more Christian than Christians." He lived with a rice-patty family, then peanut farmers and then on a rubber plantation where at night they'd light the bark of a rubber tree to collect hundreds of sticky, milky white latex sap driblets in bowls. He learned a little of the language, walked the mountains, lived with a Buddhist. He saw the warplanes fy overhead — it was 1969, the Vietnam War — and read about Nixon's secret Laos bombing campaign in a months-old Newsweek his family sent. Wilson was wide open, learning perspective, the other side of the world. Te clock strikes love. It's the early '90s and Wilson is riding a camel through Pakistan's Cholistan Desert with Laura Lee Brown. Tey're with a group of friends to walk the old Silk Road. Tey have three days ahead of them on this humpy excursion, but Wilson cannot control himself — it is too much, this love. His camel nuzzles up to Brown's. He grips his handkerchief tighter in his hands, so as not to drop the ring tied to the end of it. Brown opens it, confused — is it a bauble from the bazaar? Tey'd talked about marriage before, but Brown was hesitant. She was jaded from a past marriage in which the good didn't outweigh the bad. Resilient or resistant, the prospect of marrying again was daunting. Wilson was sure. Tey'd met in 1990 at a small dinner at 610 Magnolia where a mutual friend sat the two beside each other. If the friend was playing matchmaker, Brown wasn't aware of it. Tis woman — the debutante, the silver spoon — so diferent from Wilson, yet familiar. Her heart in the land, her eye full of art. "I fell in love before she could ever remember my name," Wilson says. When Brown later invited Wilson to a dinner party, he could barely contain his excitement. When he got there, he was put at a diferent table than her. "I didn't know at the time she always separated couples at dinner parties," Wilson says. He wasn't sure if he was her date or not. He hung around after the party and she told him, "Time to go." If this thing was going to progress, it was going to be at her pace. She is deliberate — she sits with photograph subjects for 45 minutes in Tanzania or any place where she feels like an "other." She spends days painting at home. She's patient, steady, still. Now, in the desert, Brown's day-long deliberation. She puts the ring on, takes it of, puts it on, takes it of. Te diamond glints in the sun. Wilson is frm, insistent. Groups of wild camels walk by, their babies trailing, and Brown feels like part of their crew. Te sand shifts and sways. Te sun sinks, the cool rushes in. Tey're in the tent now, legs sore from balancing on the Bedouin saddles — stif boards without stirrups — and fnally Brown says, "If you promise to not make me get back on that camel, I'll marry you." Tey were wed in October 1993 in the Woodland house that had yet to be renovated. Brown shivering in her mother's pale peach satin dress. Te nine freplaces lit. Te rest of the light came from candles. Te next day, they were of on a trip around the world. "Steve had planned it all. Didn't tell me where we were headed. Tat's part of his M.O.," Brown says. "Surprises." Wilson was aware when he married Brown that some people would question their relationship and his motives. He'd married the heiress. He was anxious about how he'd contribute, fnd his place in her world and her family. He didn't want to be thought of as Brown's "boy toy." "Two people in love — outside perceptions shouldn't matter, but it has mattered to me," Wilson says today. "I think it's a lot of what drives me. We have 1,000 employees at 21c now. All those people are being paid by money generated by the company. Tey're supporting their families or education. Surely people couldn't still be thinking that...." Te gravel road that runs through Woodland Farm is bumpy and follows a little creek. Pawpaw and sumac trees rise, evergreens tower and shade. A monarch butterfy lifts of. Deer jump the brush. Two giant green plastic bunnies sit in a feld, whimsical cousins to the 21c penguins and the pink snails clustered at the farm's entrance. Farther in, there's a garden that supplies Proof with basil, asparagus and other veggies. And then, fnally, the brick mansion where Wilson and Brown lay their heads when they're home. Te front porch faces the Ohio River, what boatmen used to call "the highway." Trough the windows you can see the occasional barge plowing through the water and, on the Indiana side of the river, farmland Wilson and Brown purchased to prevent a golf course from going in there. Continued on page 102

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