The Remains Wall

How Hood River's massive, vibrant, mural came to be

Nic Vik touring the Remains mural wall.

Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea
Nic Vik touring the Remains mural wall.



This story has been updated April 8.

The six-month Remains mural project, on Third Street/Industrial Way/Columbia Street, has redefined the northern edge of downtown Hood River. In spring 2017, Nic Vik and Nate Chavez spent weeks power-washing grime and moss from the gray-green wall to prepare it for what they would paint on the plain surface in summer and fall 2017: vibrant images of native fishers, drones, wasps, flowers, apples, mountains, flying hats, a rocket sturgeon, and a certain mystery lady.

Find the mural behind Hood River Elks Lodge; ends are adjacent to Double Mountain Brewery at Fourth and Columbia and Columbia Center for the Arts at Third and Cascade.

Nic Vik — upper valley orchardist, artist, and gallery owner — describes the emotion-filled creative journey in the wall.

Combine a tour of the mural with a visit to The Remains gallery (reopening April 6) at Union Building two blocks west on Industrial Way, and the nearby “Big Art” gallery walk sites at Union Building, Cannery Square Park at Fourth and Columbia, and in front of Columbia Center for the Arts.

Vik finished the mural in late 2017 after he started it with his friend and The Remains gallery partner, Chavez, in May of that year. Chavez died in August 2017, and Vik finished the work, presenting his own artistic visions while invoking — and in one case re-creating —the style and ideas of his late friend.

As a whole, the mural is a panorama of important Gorge places and themes as well as an artists’ memorial, and while serious touches abound, the work mostly is there for fun. Imagery ranges from ‘80s video games to a melded “rocket sturgeon” image by Chavez and homage to the ground-breaking George Mieles’ 1907 silent film “Voyage to the Moon” by Vik. And the Moon-and-Sturgeon form the critical nexus of the two men’s talents.

Keep in mind that the entire mural is hand-painted; the artists used no spray cans.

Vik describes the inspirations and whimsies behind each of the 20 or so segments of the 300-foot mural, created between May and November 2017 with the blessing of property owner Hood River Elks Lodge 1507, and the City of Hood River. Hood River holds a variety of contemporary outdoor murals, but not in 60 or so years had one like this — on private property along public streets — been created.

Nate Chavez and Nic Vik said a year ago they would start with little or no actual idea of what would go into the mural, besides a motif honoring the late Forest Andrews, some Gorge landmarks, and at least one elk symbol. They would rely on three things: inspiration, spontaneity, and the experiment of coalescing the ideas of two artists and friends who, while like-minded, possessed disparate artistic styles. (The project was introduced in the 2017 Panorama as “Forest’s Lane.”)

Some of the panels are stand-alone, some blend with adjacent ones, and as Vik describes, some reflect creative confluences between himself and Chavez.

A solemn irony is it began as a way to memorialize one artist — Andrews, who died at the site in 2011 — and evolved as a memorial to both Andrews and Chavez. Andrews’ motif “Umbrella Man” was, from the start, the heart of the piece. Vik and Chavez labored long hours in May creating the center wall, honoring Andrews, and visitors to the mural are invited to stand within the Umbrella Man image.

Off-center of the mural, meanwhile, is the wind-blown fedora that Vik painted as a tribute to the iconoclastic, and natty, Chavez.

-Kirby Neumann-Rea

Nic Vik discusses Remains mural wall

Nic Vik describes the inspirations and whimsies behind each of the 20 or so segments of the 300-foot mural, created between May and November 2017 with the blessing of property owner Hood River Elks Lodge 1507, and the City of Hood River. Hood River holds a variety of contemporary outdoor murals, but not in 60 or so years had one like this — on private property along public streets — been created.



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