One Austin art puzzle leads to another

Jess Coleman Akin painted Alvino Mendoza’s portrait.


This is Part 2 in a two-part Austin art puzzle.

To recap, World War II veteran Alvino Mendoza, 91, contacted us because he owns two signed and numbered prints by deceased artist Gerald Harvey Jones, who signed his pictures “G. Harvey.” Mendoza wanted to preserve them. We confirmed that there’s an active market for G. Harvey prints online.

As we were leaving Mendoza’s house in East Austin, his wife, Rebecca, and his son Seth brought out a second art puzzle: a painted sketch made of Alvino in 1959.

Who made it and why?

Round Rock native Alvino Mendoza grew up in the La Loma district — “at the very top of the hill” — on East 10th Street.

“Most of the Hispanics there were field workers,” he said. “We went to South Texas and picked a lot of cotton, then back up to Manor, Jonah and Hutto, then out to West Texas.”

One year, the field work meant that Alvino returned too late to enroll at Allan Junior High. He was directed to the Bickler Academy, where he met Rebecca, who had grown up in the the French Legation area.

She persuaded him to join the Navy. After he was discharged as a Seaman First Class, they married in 1946. Their little house was not suitable for a family.

“My wife would say: You work on houses for people over on Balcones Drive,” Alvino recalled about his construction jobs, which overlapped his time in the postal service. “Why not build one for us?”

He did. But he also kept up his other work, including a job for the artist who painted the portrait with its rough signature and date.

Rebecca: “Wait! There’s something on the back.”

In spindly cursive and print it reads: “By Colman AKIN 1959.”

Jess Coleman Akin was an Austin artist, who, among other things, was a charter member of the Austin Yacht Club. The only other image of his that we found online was a 1949 self-portrait executed in a similar brooding style.

Seth: “That’s exactly what Dad looked like when he came home from work.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Georgetown police: Man has harassed Sun City residents since 2016
Georgetown police: Man has harassed Sun City residents since 2016

Georgetown police are searching for a man who has been harassing Sun City residents for more than two years, even walking into their homes at night and standing at the foot of their beds until they wake up, a police spokesman said. Sun City is a retirement community with several thousand homes in Georgetown. The man has been involved in at least 50...
Former MLB athlete Kelly Wayne Gruber arrested in Austin on DWI charge
Former MLB athlete Kelly Wayne Gruber arrested in Austin on DWI charge

Former Major League Baseball athlete Kelly Wayne Gruber was arrested in Austin on a DWI charge Saturday, records show. Gruber, 56, was a two-time All-Star while playing baseball for the Toronto Blue Jays from 1984 to 1992. As a teenager, Gruber played baseball for Westlake High School.  An Austin officer pulled Gruber over after noticing...
Police: Man attacked, cut person he thought was behind home invasion
Police: Man attacked, cut person he thought was behind home invasion

An Austin man is accused of cutting an apartment resident with a machete because he thought the victim was involved in a home invasion, according to an arrest affidavit released this week. Samuel Diaz-Parra, 58, was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in jail. The attack happened...
Temple physician arrested for child porn, Texas Medical Board says

TEMPLE Texas Medical Board: Physician arrested for child porn The Texas Medical Board on Monday suspended the license of Temple physician John Middlemiss Palmer after he was arrested on child porn charges. “The Board panel found that on or about April 18, 2018, Dr. Palmer was charged with possession of child pornography by the Texas Attorney...
Jury weighs murder charge in Austin stabbing death of Daniel Spencer
Jury weighs murder charge in Austin stabbing death of Daniel Spencer

A Travis County jury began deliberating Monday evening in the murder trial of 67-year-old James Robert Miller Jr., who is accused of fatally stabbing 32-year-old Daniel Spencer in September 2015. Miller’s attorney says it was self-defense. Spencer was killed at his home early on the morning of Sept. 21, after inviting Miller to his house to play...
More Stories