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.
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."
"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.
"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."
"His works are colorful, instinctive and expressive, like Mikey's life itself," wrote the gallery owner for Welsh's exhibition at Montanaro Gallery.
"I have to be able to finish a painting in a session," Welsh said in this Youtube video. "I think I'm trying to replicate that energy of playing in front of a big crowd."
Welsh had his last solo show last summer at the Slingluff Gallery in Philadelphia.
"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.
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."
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.
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.