YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Youngstown artist Chris Yambar died on Saturday at 59 years old. His wife, Maureen, showed us some of his paintings Monday and talked about her husband’s life.
Chris was raised in Austintown and lived and worked on the west side of Youngstown.
One of his accomplishments as an artist was being a writer for Bart Simpson’s Comics. But his wife says it was Yambar’s creation of the comic character Mr. Beat that got him noticed by The Simpsons creator Matt Groening.
“He says, ‘who’s that Mr. Beat Guy?’ And his editor said, ‘that’s my friend Chris Yambar. And he said, ‘well, why isn’t he working for us already,'” Maureen said.
Artist Aaron Chine works out of Warren but grew up in Austintown and remembers as a young teenager going to Yambar’s Mahoning Avenue studio to talk art.
“He was the guy we all looked up to and still do,” Chine said. “The Austintown Theater – I remember going there with my parents, and both sides of the hallway were just lined with his paintings, and it was like holy cow, you can make a living as an artist. This guy’s doing it.”
One of Yambar’s best friends was artist Tony Nicholas, who showed us the spot along West Federal Street in Youngstown where in July 2015 Yambar fell, cut himself and eventually contracted MRSA. It would cost Yambar his sight and his life.
“He was having kidney failure, and he was fighting that battle like a true hero,” Nicholas said. “And he still created. Over the last three years, he had a show every year. He was making paintings. He’d go to dialysis, and the next day, he’s working in the studio.”
Chris Yambar’s goal was to complete 5,000 paintings, and before he died, he made it, having done 1,000 in five years.
Maureen shared a series of artwork Chris did on Native Americans.
“He was the type of person who could have lived five lives and not done all of the things he thought about doing and wanted to do,” she said. “People may have seen him as someone who took. He always wanted the limelight. He always wanted the interview, but he always wanted to give back, and that was his real motivation.”
There are plans for a memorial or a show to honor Chris Yambar sometime later this summer.