by Jennifer Fry, staff writer
Unveiled in San Antonio on June 18, Uvalde County native George Nelson’s artwork is permanently on display at the Alamo. British singer-songwriter Phil Collins, Texas land commissioner George P. Bush and Congressman Will Hurd were on hand for the unveiling.
Nelson was commissioned by Phil Collins to create bronze renderings of the historical layout of the Alamo as it once was throughout its history. In total, there are seven of them – each about the size of a card table – spanning a history from 1744 to 1900. The sculptures display ways in which the mission has changed over time.
At the unveiling, Nelson said, “The idea is to try to present, in the most easily accessible format, the deep and complicated history of the Alamo.
“What I tried to do was create essentially bronze time machines so that anybody, children or people from around the world, can explore the Alamo through time to understand how it came to be like it is now.”
The sculptures are part of the plans to improve San Antonio’s Alamo Plaza.
The project, said Nelson, “was done as a donation to the state of Texas. It’s a result of 50 years of research and seven years of production.”
Nelson specializes in historic artwork and museum exhibits. “I do a combination of museum artwork, archeology, and I’m also a sculptor,” he said.
Nelson recently completed three pieces for an exhibit at the Witte Museum commemorating
San Antonio’s 300-year history. The exhibit features models of the town at various points of its history – including a bird’s eye view of the land in pre-historic times.
“I’m very big on local history and archeology,” he said. “I try to use artwork to interpret history and geology.”
For much of his life, he has been involved in the very same. In the 1980s, for example, he conducted an archeological expedition at Ft. Inge. Having grown up in the Reagan Wells area, where he still resides, he also published a history of the Dry Frio Canyon in 1986 with the help of his mother.
One of his specialties is pre-historic times. He has murals depicting Native American life on display at the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Institute of Texan Cultures. Later, using historical maps and other documents, he compiled and self-published a book called “The Alamo: An Illustrated History.” On its third edition, the book has not been out of print since 1998.
“It’s a way to interpret the complicated subject like the Alamo in an approachable way,” Nelson said.
n total, Nelson has sold almost 60,000 copies of the book. One of the buyers – a certain Phil Collins from Britain – sent him a fan letter 15 years ago as a way to say thank-you. It was after the initial letter that the two became friends.
“Out of the blue,” said Nelson, “I got a famous rock star to be my friend and patron.”
Collins has high praise for Nelson’s work. At the unveiling of the seven Alamo sculptures, Collins said of Nelson, “His tenacity has seen them through to their finished state. He’s been doing this all his life.”
For Nelson, the accomplishment is only one of many other predecessor’s previous works.
“Everybody who did a drawing or map or photographs,” he said at the Alamo unveiling, “I could not have done this without them.”