Nate Chavez brought energy to all he did, and the response following his death seems to be in keeping with that.
Chavez, a gregarious man and painter of vivid, provocative images, died Sunday at age 37 at his home.
Friends and family gather at the downtown mural that will be Chavez the artist’s lasting legacy, known as “The Remains Mural,” a full two blocks long at Third and Industrial. It is a work in progress by Chavez and his The Remains partner, Nik Vik.
Community members are getting things going to assist Chavez’s family, with two events planned (Aug. 24 all day at Red Carpet, and a silent auction on Aug. 26 at Underground Music Station). A GoFundMe account in his name is approaching the half-way point towards the $50,000 goal. Friends and family held a private event Wednesday; no other memorial has been scheduled.
“He made a huge impact in a short time with his art and with his personality,” artist Mark Nilsson said. “His death is a tragic loss and makes me very sad, my heart goes out to his family. Nate's legacy will live on through his artwork and hopefully encourage us all to live this one life to its fullest.”
Chavez has been a working artist for 12 years and emerged on the Hood River art scene five years ago with Dia de los Muertos exhibits at 301 Building. He and Vik founded The Remains in July 2014 and held a third-anniversary party and exhibit opening on Aug. 4.
“My brother is everywhere. His inspiration is contagious and it will continue to spread in his absence,” said Melissa Chavez of Hood River. “He once told me about an article that he read in regards to death, based on a belief that we never truly die so long as a story is being told. Our spirits exist not only in thoughts and words but also in actions and faith. May he live forever in the memories that we share, the stories that we tell, and the love that continues to connect us.”
His sister Melinda Chavez of Hood River said, “My brother Nate has inspired me my whole life. Whether it was through music, art, or literature, he helped me see things in a different light.
“He taught me how to be passionate. He showed me how to be myself. He helped me find the artist in my heart and most importantly, he taught me to follow my heart. I will always remember my inspiration, my friend, my big brother, Nate Chavez.”
The Indiana native was a Chicago Cubs devotee with an encyclopedic knowledge of music, and while working on his mural he would regale friends or strangers with talk of rock-n-roll, mariachi, politics, art, baseball and just about anything else. Chavez wore a rotating selection of natty fedoras, often with colorful hatbands.
Vik is confident that The Remains Gallery will go on will, and Thursday he continued work on The Remains mural he and Chavez have painted this summer, a work that alternately merges and melds the two friends’ images. Vik said he will include a distinct homage to Chavez, probably involving a fedora, and endeavor to paint portions in Chavez style — something he did weeks ago in replicating Chavez’s mechanical sturgeon, the second one crashing into the moon-man eye painted by Vik.
Chavez himself painted the “Umbrella Man” portion of the mural following the motif created by their friend, the late Forest Andrews, to whom the central section is dedicated.
Vik said he will also carry on in another way that was a strength of Chavez: “Anyone who wants to come down and talk while I’m working, I’ll talk, I’ll answer their questions,” Vik said. He said in the past Chavez was the main one to interact with people. “That was Nate. I’d give people five minutes, he’d give them an hour.
“Doing this is really hard without Nate, but I want to, and it’s got to be done. I will finish the mural,” Vik said.
DJ Mexi, who spun tunes at The Remains parties among other locations, left a memento at the wall with his friend Ben. Both said they deeply miss Chavez.
“If it was a slow night at Trillium, I could look up and see the silhouette of this guy in a fedora come in the place and I knew right away, ‘Things will happen now.’”
“I met Nate around the time he had his one-man show a few years ago and I thought ‘Wow, really cool artwork!’” said Nilsson. “I remember a friend saying to me that she thought the art was ‘weird,’ and I replied by saying, ‘Yes, wonderfully weird, just was this area needs.’ I became a fan right away and was always happy to encourage him in his endeavors of doing art full time, which is not easy to do. I was honored to be a part of two shows at The Remains Gallery.”
Red Carpet and Underground Music Station are teaming up for a two-part benefit for the Chavez family.
On Aug. 24, Red Carpet will donate the day’s sale proceeds to the Chavez family, as will 80:20, Chef Joe Silliman’s food truck.
Music, including Bonneville Power Trio, is planned from 5:30-10 p.m. A variety of area businesses are giving auction items and donations for the event.
At Underground Music, more music is bound to happen as owner Tim Snyder and friends host a silent auction at the studio, located at 500 Industrial Way next to The Remains Gallery, which Chavez co-founded. The auction was originally planned for Red Carpet, and moved to Underground Music Station.
“It’s overwhelming,” said Red Carpet’s Lucas Ward, who put out the word Sunday about doing a silent auction. By Wednesday supporters had garnered so many donations, Red Carpet does not have room for them all.
“We want to see how much we can rally,” said Ward, who this spring with Morgan Lynch purchased and remodeled Red Carpet.
Nate Chavez’s work speaks for ‘Los otro de lado’
By m. EUGENE
These are words of Nate Chavez written, after long discussion and consideration, by his close friend and fellow artist, m. Eugene, who asks respectfully that in the interest of preserving the privacy of the family, any response to what follows should be directed at m. Eugene.
Some years ago, Nate Chavez asked that when he passes that I write about him. We had just spent two months together creating art and a shrine to celebrate Dia de los Muertos. The spirit and solemnity of the work brought us as close as mortal spirits can be. It became routine that one of us would call and answer the other’s question about the show before it was asked.
Before agreeing, I looked Nate dead in the eye and asked, “Are you sure you want me to do it? ‘Cause you know I see through your bullshit and you know I’m going to tell the truth.” Nate met my gaze and said, “Yeah, man, that’s why I want you to do it.”
Some may question what I write while others who were close to Nate or more observant may better understand.
Nate was brutally honest. What he put out was no false front, but it was often a front drawn from a selection of truths.
While Nate shrugged off many rules, laws and conventions, he lived and died by a code written by toil with sweat and blood. He had been lifted up in birth by parents and grandparents who willingly gave a majority of their days to allow him and his generation to move forward freely with dignity and hope. His decision to answer his calling as an artist was not without a struggle and internal moral debate. It was difficult to claim to “work” by lifting a paintbrush and host events when for others the same word had meant loading heavy crates of cucumbers from dawn till dark. He honored this in everything he did, be it squeezing his soul to pour emotion onto a canvas or by climbing a ladder 10 times to position a light correctly for a show.
Frequently his art boldly exposed the turmoil within him. He characterized endogenous depression and the insatiable appetite brought on by his choice of elixirs to it as demons and beasts of terror. He stood so strongly and fought so well it was often viewed as an elegant dance rather than the desperate battle it really was. What appeared to be bursts of reckless hedonism were lunges against chains and attempts to salve a deep and unhealing wound.
The strong desire, passion and compulsion to produce art Nate and others possess may be impossible to explain. The first night I met Nate, we stood behind his workspace and pressed ourselves for an answer. We persisted for an hour after we had run out of smokes to share and were chilled to the bone with no explanation found.
While this compulsion itself is undefined, how he chose to use it is not. It was with the greatest strength and dignity that he boldly exposed to us his greatest fears, flaws, weaknesses, and shortcomings.
Humanity can be a place of harsh judgement and the fear and pain of social rejection are real. He stood strong and proud and dared the world to knock the chip off. Standing behind him and his lasting work are countless others from every walk of life whose shame he sought to lessen.
The front, gregariousness, brash humor and crassness were both genuine and superficial. They served to protect a deep and compassionate core. Anyone who felt his love when he spoke to his children already knows this.
To the Hood River arts community:
Prior to Nate’s first show, the art scene was dominated by a relatively small group who sought to shrink the definition of arts style and allowable concepts to fit their relatively flaccid and draftsman-like work. A counter movement was formed and Nate became the visible front man. His first show was already under construction and this opposition under the nom de guerre “los d’otro lado” (those from the other side) helped raise its volume. Nate’s exposure and quality of art brought publicity, inspired unity between outsider artists and opened the doors at Gallery 301 and later in establishing The Remains Studio.
While this early movement had a name, there was never a plan other than to paint soulfully, work hard and hit their walls head on. Nate’s bull-like tenacity and matching forehead served as the tip of the spear.
The walls are cracked and broken. We hope you will continue. If your head isn’t like a battering ram, then be the persistent water eroding the cement and blocking its repair.
There is no real conclusion. So long as at least in essence the living keep a spirit alive through our memories and the impression they left on us.
To those who might read this:
I have to address the rest of my words to Nate.
I am doing so publicly, but these words are for him rather than you.
Brother, when I look to the sky and speak to you my soul is raw and bare. What was left of my mortal protections was ripped away yesterday and prepared me for the task you asked me to undertake.
I don’t know if you missed a new path or your tenacity and strength pushed you past it.
I cannot glorify this ending. The children will carry the burden for the most years and your guidance will be missed.
But it is done.
So across the river I say to you:
When your greatest fears and darkness took over, you embraced them and stepped into the unknown rather than letting them grow and manifest amongst the ones you love.
We love you Nate. I hope if you are able that you will be there when each of us inevitably crosses the river and joins you.