AUSTIN FOUND: Solving a two-part Austin art puzzle

Jan 06, 2018
East Austin resident Alvino Mendoza with his two signed and numbered prints by G. Harvey, the recently deceased Texas artist aka Gerald Harvey Jones. They were gifts from two of his sons in 1974 and 1983. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

This is Part 1 of a two-part Austin art puzzle. It encompasses one modest collector, two artists and a chunk of shared East Austin history.

On Dec. 4, 2017, the American-Statesman published an obituary of Gerald Harvey Jones, who signed his popular expressions of nostalgic Americana “G. Harvey.” He died on Nov. 13, 2017, at age 84.

Not long after that article ran, we heard from Alvino Mendoza, 91, a World War II veteran and near-lifelong resident of East Austin.

“I always liked G. Harvey’s art,” he said. “I’ve got two of his pictures but I don’t know what to do with them. I want to make sure they are preserved.”

So, we visited Mendoza and his family in the Govalle neighborhood.

The signed and numbered prints in question hang in a middle room of the house that Mendoza and his wife, Rebecca Vasquez Mendoza, built with their own hands in 1953. It’s where they raised their seven children.

They had met while attending the long-gone Bickler Academy at East 11th Street and East Avenue, but the couple didn’t marry until 1946, after Mendoza was discharged from the Navy. He had served on the seaplane tender, USS St. George, which survived a kamikaze attack during the Battle of Okinawa.

The prints, one clearly titled “The Drifting Cowhand,” were Christmas gifts from two of his sons, Sam and Benjamin, in 1974 and 1983, when each of them retired from the military. Both picture horsemen battling bad weather, one while passing a residence or inn, the other going by an early gas station.

“It reminded me of Red River and East 15th streets,” Mendoza said. “There was a little gas station and old houses falling down.”

Would someone preserve them? Online, signed and numbered prints of “The Drifting Cowhand” can go from around $500 to $1,500.

“I’ve enjoyed them,” Mendoza said. “But I won’t live much longer. And I’d like to know more about these pictures.”

Watch for Part 2 next week.