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The Vivid World of Mikey Welsh

Ex-Weezer bassist, dead at 40, reinvented himself as a rock and roll painter

'Mikey Welsh', artwork

The Slingluff Gallery

Mikey Welsh, the ex-Weezer bassist who died unexpectedly last weekend, reinvented himself as a painter of growing renown after leaving the band in 2001. The wild colors and intense energy of his paintings were often compared to rock and roll, and Welsh had to agree. "Part of my process is needing immediate gratification," he once said.

'Mikey Welsh', artwork

The Slingluff Gallery

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Welsh recorded one album with Weezer, their self-titled third release (commonly known as the Green Album). He left the band after suffering a nervous breakdown in 2001. In a statement posted after his death on Weezer's official website, the band noted that after regaining his health, Welsh "took on a new role as an astonishing and pure visual artist. It was a glorious flowering of a talent he always possessed, but he had chosen to rock out first, paint later."

'Mikey Welsh', artwork

Michael Montanaro

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"dreamt i died in chicago next weekend (heart attack in my sleep). need to write my will today," Welsh wrote in an eerie tweet dated September 26th. He followed that up with another tweet that read, "correction – the weekend after next." On October 8th, his body was found in a Chicago hotel room. 

'Mikey Welsh', artwork

Michael Montanaro

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"He was so prolific," said Michael Montanaro, a Newport, Rhode Island gallery owner who became close to Welsh after hosting a solo show for the painter. "He'd bust out six paintings a day, day after day."

'Mikey Welsh', artwork

Michael Montanaro

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"There was just so much energy, raw, nothing really held back," said Dennis Healy, a friend of Welsh's in Burlington, Vermont, where the artist lived with his wife and two children.

'Mikey Welsh', artwork

Courtesy of Burton Snowboards

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The news of Welsh's death was "devastating," said Healy, who works for Burton snowboards, where he commissioned the painter to create limited-edition boards called the Farm series. "The world is less creative now."

'Mikey Welsh', artwork

Michael Montanaro

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Welsh counted Picasso and Basquiat among his artistic heroes. When Montanaro asked whether he was influenced by the CoBrA artists, a short-lived group of avant-garde painters in Europe in the mid-20th century, "he got this huge smile," recalled his friend. "You know about that?" Welsh said. 

'Mikey Welsh', artwork

Michael Montanaro

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A memorial service planned for this weekend has been postponed, Welsh's family posted on Facebook. "We look forward to sharing a retrospective of Mikey's art, life, and music with you in the coming weeks," it said.

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