Mingering Mike is in the House

Mingering Mike's DECISION: Fractured Soul

Billed on his website as "the Soul Superstar You've Never Heard Of," Mingering Mike is an enigma, wrapped in faux vinyl, and carefully packaged in cardboard. The artist, who wishes to remain anonymous but for his sobriquet, is a D.C. native, who, caught up in the sounds and images of his hometown in the 1960s and 1970s, dreamed of joining the ranks of singer-songwriter Marvin Gaye who was transforming the soundscape of the city and the nation. Mike never got the chance, but that didn't stop his prolific outflow of "albums," fabricated from cardboard and painted, replete with song titles and lyrics, liner notes that he created himself, along with lyrics and "reviews" by famous artists such as James Brown. Nor did it quash his dreams and aspirations. According to Leslie Umberger, curator of folk and self-taught art at the museum, "Mingering Mike's work mirrors the times in which it was made: he ruminates on the challenges of his generation, in his city, and aspires to a creative plane that will rise above it all."

Flash forward a few decades and Mingering Mike's collection, kept in storage for decades, was lost to him. The materials—discovered in a D.C. flea market by "record digger" and music lover Dori Hadar—were acquired by the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 2013. Beginning this Friday, February 27 and running until August 2, 2015, over 100 works of art, created between 1968 and 1976, will be presented in the exhibition, Mingering Mike's Supersonic Greatest Hits.

On Friday evening, February 27, at 6:30 p.m. in the museum's McEvoy Auditorium, Leslie Umberger, Dori Hadar, independent curator, writer Tom Patterson, and Carroll Hynson, Jr., a DC-based radio personality and '60s and '70s music expert, will sit down with Mingering Mike (who, as always in public discussions, will be in disguise to ensure his anonymity) to discuss the artist's work during a Roundtable Remix panel discussion.