“Because I was in pain, I needed to be doing something,” she said. “I started making little lines here and there because I don’t draw, I don’t know [how to draw]. It has never been part of me. I just started making little lines and colors.” After several days of drawing her husband Richard Nash, said, “You need to get a canvas.” Richard made the trip to Michaels arts and crafts store and returned with a few canvases and some acrylic paint. Over 300 paintings later, Evelia is still actively creating art and participating in every Art Alliance of Idyllwild event.
Evelia was born in Zacatecas, Mexico, and raised on a little ranch. She is the ninth of 11 children born to Mr. and Mrs. Gonzales and had no interest in drawing. “Any drawing they wanted me to do was always the same. It was a mountain, it was an ‘M’ for a mountain, the sun had a happy face always, the house was a square with another little square on top for a chimney. That’s as far as my drawing went,” she said laughing.
Evelia came to the U.S. in 1979 when she was 10 years old. Her father, however, had been coming to the states since 1941. “He came as bracero (a Mexican worker who is allowed entry into the United States to work for a limited time). That’s when they used to hire people in Guadalajara to come and work for the orange run,” Evelia explained. “That was back when everything was legal before you even came to the country. He was 16 when he first came.” Her mother emigrated to the U.S. in 1972.
Tradition was important to Evelia’s family, so when Richard Nash came calling, he learned just how strict Evelia’s Mexican upbringing was. After three years working together, Richard had become friends with Evelia and her brother. Over time, Richard was interested in taking the relationship with Evelia from friends to something more. “He asked me if I wanted to go out with him. In the Hispanic language there is no word for ‘going out,’” she said. “You’re boyfriend, girlfriend, fiancé, married or friends. So I told him, ‘No, I’m not going out.’” Richard persisted, but Evelia, still living at home, required permission from her parents. “I said, ‘If you are willing you can go and talk to [my parents] and see what they say.’”
More an event than a simple request for a date, the entire family was on hand; Evelia’s mother and father, sisters and brothers and their spouses all gathered in the family home for Richard’s day of reckoning, 7 p.m. on April 4. Not allowed to sit on the same couch, Evelia sat across the room in a rocking chair and watched her family reject everything Richard asked. “Then my husband did something I was not expecting; he looked at them and said ‘Mr. and Mrs. Gonzales, I want to ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage.’” Evelia nearly fell over backwards in the rocking chair. Chaperoned by family throughout their courtship, the couple married four months and four days later. On Aug. 8 they will celebrate their 27th anniversary.
Richard had a house in Norco where they lived for a year while running a business they started six months into their marriage. The business quickly grew to over 100 employees. “We used to silkscreen plastic bottles, cosmetics, all kinds of things,” Evelia said, except T-shirts. “As soon as you say silk screening, people think T-Shirts.” Tired of working 18-hour days, the family sold the company and moved to Fullerton.
With his new company a success Richard suggested to Evelia that she stay home and care for the family, which she did for several years. The couple then moved to Grand Terrace where they would spend 11 years. It was during that time that a friend introduced them to Idyllwild. “In 2008 we bought a little trailer at Lake Hemet because a friend of ours, Larry, had one there and we came for a barbecue and liked it. For two years we came there every weekend,” Evelia recalled. “That’s where I met Gary Kuscher.”
Kuscher learned of Evelia’s talent and asked if she had photos. “I showed him photos on my iPhone and after that he kept on telling me, ‘You have to join the Art Alliance.’” After purchasing a home in Idyllwild, Evelia went back to say goodbye to Lake Hemet and new friend, Gary Kuscher. “I went to say thank you and [Gary] said, ‘Here!’ He had the application. He said, ‘I know you are not going to do it. All you have to do is give me the check, it’s already all filled out, and sign [the application].’” Three years later, Evelia has entered every show and won a ribbon at each of them.
Compared by some to abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock, Evelia’s work is the result of many processes. “I don’t really paint with brushes,” Evelia explained. “I use sponges, knives, spatulas, whatever I have available. I put the paint down and I’m taking layers off. I’m revealing something that is there. That’s how I paint most of my paintings.” Discovering the use of water in her work opened entirely new horizons for Evelia.
Between running Idyllwild Laundry Service, which she and husband Richard purchased from Dan Singer about two years ago, daughter Shelby, 21, who attends college at the Fashion Institute in Los Angeles and son Richie, 18, who recently graduated from high school, and her art, Evelia is constantly busy which, judging by her broad smile and warm demeanor, makes her very happy.
“I have met an amazing assortment of people. [In] most towns once in a while you meet someone a little different, but here, [there are] so many different people but at the end we all come [together] as one,” she said passionately. “I’m from a little ranch, so everybody gets together to help the neighbor … that’s the most beautiful thing about this town. It’s the people and that’s the number one thing.”