PILSEN — The city's art community has "lost a true champion" after the sudden death of longtime street artist Brooks Blair Golden, fellow artists said.
Golden, a graffiti artist whose real name was Jason Brooks, died over the weekend after checking into John Stroger Hospital last week to be treated for excessive vomiting, friend Oscar Arriola said.
"I’m gonna be out of commission for at least a cpl dAys," Golden wrote on his blog, "Brooks Be Golden," Wednesday. "Lots of test being run to find out why I’m wretchin non stop. I’m stable".
Golden, who friends say was in his late 30s, died early Saturday morning, Arriola said. An autopsy is being performed to determine a cause of death, but according to Arriola, Golden had previous health issues, including diabetes and a cancerous tumor which was removed four years ago.
Originally from Milwaukee, Golden had lived in Chicago and been a part of the city's art scene for over 10 years. His art frequently included owls — such as his mural of an owl eye along 16th Street — but there were also Egyptian and Heavy Metal references in his pieces, according to Arriola.
"It was a huge shock. He was one of my best friends," said Arriola, also a Chicago artist. "I miss him a lot, he was a really great person. I loved his artwork, I loved his drawings, they always made me happy."
Tributes to Golden have already gone up around the city, including a four-panel mural along Milwaukee Avenue near Uprise Skate Shop, 1820 N. Milwaukee.
The mural reads "7ist," one of Golden's artist names. The "i" has been replaced by a cartoon pyramid with a tongue sticking out; the graphic is based on a drawing Golden created and used in Milwaukee in the '90s, Arriola said.
Golden — who studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago — frequently had showings at Chicago galleries, including Logan Square's Galerie F, Johalla Projects in the West Loop and Chicago Urban Art Society in Pilsen.
"Our city has lost a true champion and practitioner of contemporary art in Chicago," Lauren Pacheco of Chicago Urban Art Society said via email. "Brooks Golden was kind, forward thinking, and always willing to collaborate for a good cause. He will be missed today and forever."
Even as his illness progressed, Golden still produced art and attended openings, according to Anna Maria Cerniglia of Johalla Projects.
"He was such a dedicated person," Cerniglia said. "He was really true to what he wanted to be. We’ve lost somebody that would have never left the art world."
Golden had recently donated one of his murals to Englewood's Lindblom Math and Science Academy, according to Nathan Mason, curator of exhibits and public art at the city's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.
The 8-foot by 14-foot mural — which depicts an owl in a tree — was displayed at the Cultural Center earlier this year.
Services will be held in Milwaukee after the autopsy is complete. Arriola said he also plans to hold a memorial service in Chicago, but he is waiting to set a date until after the details of the Milwaukee services have been announced.