CONROE, Texas — The stories of Texas have been told for generations. Storytellers have used the written word, poets have used sonnets and journalists have traveled all over just to get that one story of our state. But there is one man in Conroe who has used a totally different method to tell these stories. He’s used sculpture.
In a studio off the square in downtown Conroe sculptor and native Texas Craig Campobella works on his latest piece. Despite his award-winning work, there’s one thing this meticulous molder knows.
“It’s like golf,” Craig said. “You’re never going to master it.”
Since the late 80’s, the Houston native has been creating art that celebrates our state, but it took an early career in radio and some time out of Texas to realize where he needed to belong.
“Who knows what it is,” Craig said. “It’s something in the air. Why did Willie come back? Why does everybody miss it so? I missed it. I love being here. I couldn’t imagine being someplace else.”
After answering his call back home, Craig whose mother was an artist, had another calling and chance encounter with clay struck the spark.
“It was instantaneous that I could feel what needed to happen,” Craig said. “That by no means I was prolific from the very beginning. I got my fair share of criticism, but I didn’t give up.”
Creating the art fulfilled a dream but he longed to tell a story, to create something that could impact a person’s love for the Lone Star State. That’s when the Texian came into focus.
“It tells the entire story about how we got to where we are today,” Craig said.
You can find the Texian surrounded by the battle and rally flags of the Texas revolution at the Texas Flag Park in Conroe.
“Tell all those stories in a beautiful Texas size pill form where people can understand that heritage and in the middle of it don’t put Sam don’t put Stephen don’t put Crockett, put your everyday Texian fighting soldier volunteer,” Craig said.
This piece of art tells Texas’ fight for freedom not just with this history that surrounds it but also with some sneaky symbolism.
“Late at night when I’m wishing I was home with my wife and my baby girl I get kind of sidetracked and I start putting these little things in there that I don’t think anybody is going to know about. I started that a long time ago,” Craig said. “Some people notice and some people don’t notice. When they notice them that’s a lot of fun.”
Under the Texan’s left foot, you’ll find 13 stones, one for each day of the siege at the Alamo.
The rocks are covered with 354 marking, one for each person who paid the ultimate price at Goliad.
Under the right foot, nine stones represent those lost at the Battle of San Jacinto while the 18 buttons on the Texian’s jacket represent each minute of the quick and decisive victory for Texas.
A big rock under the toe, symbolizes the continued presence of a particular nemesis whose name is synonymous with the Texas revolution, Santa Anna.
Combining his art with the stories of history of Texas is the craving Campobella can’t quell.
“I can hear them say over and over again one thing: ‘I did not know that,’” Craig said. “They go to the next one. ‘I did not know that.’ And my heart soars like the eagle because that’s the purpose behind the kind of art that I want to do.”
Around the corner from the flag park on Spirit of Texas Way, you’ll find Texas Lady Liberty. The gold gilded statue was inspired by that battle flag at the battle of San Jacinto while a piece dedicated to the
From the Battle of Gonzales to Samuel McColloch Jr, a free black solider who fought and was the first to be injured in the Texas Revolution, the subject matter for Campboella creations is considerable.
“I know I don’t want to rewrite history. I think some very brave, wonderful people came before us to give us the opportunities that we have today and I don’t look down my nose at that at all.”
Telling stories through this kind art is a time-consuming process that will stand the test of time. Continuing the legend, lore and stories of the heroes of Texas.
“I’m proud of that heritage. I’m proud of that heritage and I am beyond thrilled to be a storyteller of that heritage.”