His rock band album covers were anguished and eerie; his latest paintings are luminous and exuberant. The art of Eddie Mize is the expression of the Colorado artist’s lows and highs.
His current work has been described as Modern Cubism. The colors are vivid, the subjects evocative.
“My acrylic work is usually the result of mania; the digital “darker” art is usually created during my depressive phases,” he says. “People who know me know how I’m doing by the qualities in the work.”
Some people, he says, realize only through his art how deeply he feels things, because it’s not consistent with his outward demeanor. “They’re a little freaked out when they see the darker work.”
For a time, Mize was staff artist for a record company. Of the darker art of his rock album covers, he says, “It’s pretty spooky and in-your-face.” Now, he’s working more in the fine art arena, creating commissioned pieces and being featured in shows.
Learning to live with highs and lows
He struggled throughout high school under a heavy cloud of depression. He had trouble staying focused and he didn’t perform well. He had extreme mood swings and his periods of depression were long lasting and severe; mania came at intervals of a few days to a few months. He started college, but lasted only a year when his depression kept him from continuing. He had frequent thoughts of ending his life.
It was the 1980s, and bipolar disorder was rarely recognized. “By the time I was diagnosed just four years ago at age 38,” he said, “it all began to make sense.”
In adulthood, his near-constant mania propelled him to success – and excess. In this phase, he climbed all 54 of Colorado’s “fourteeners,” mountains higher than 14,000 feet. He became an accomplished mountaineer and was profiled on a TV health program.
“I went at it pretty hard,” he said. “When I’m manic, I get very driven and focused. I sleep two hours a night and I can accomplish anything.”
As a teen, before home computers were common, he studied the workings of a simple version, then built a better one. Later, with no education in the field, he was hired as an engineer.
“I failed science and math – I couldn’t concentrate in a classroom setting – but I had a natural ability with computers. That, combined with the 100-hour weeks I worked when I was manic, made me lead engineer of a team of 47 and President’s Club winner year after year.”
It was during the long periods of what he calls “soul-crushing lows” in young adulthood that he began to find self-expression through his art. “It helped me deal with the hard times. I accumulated a lot of this dark stuff. But, I never showed it to anyone.”
Mize says he had only one art class in school, and didn’t do well in it. But, on his own, he learned to use a variety of mediums for self-expression.
“Most of the things I do well,” he says, ” I was originally afraid of. I was terrified of heights and I climbed mountains. I really hated being around people, but as an engineer, I forced myself to do it. I go at it 100 percent. But sometimes, I’m still afraid.”
Mize, 42, is married and the father of two children. He lives in Colorado Springs.
He does not define himself by his illness. “I would describe myself as an artist who has a lot of interests: mountaineering, the outdoors, and, by necessity, computers. I don’t see bipolar disorder as who I am. It’s just an obstacle I have to get around.”