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Checkin' Out Mingering Mike: D.C. 's Imaginary Soul Superstar

Exhibit Dates: June 7-August 28, 2023
Location: Floor 1, Great Hall West

Presented in collaboration with Hemphill Artworks, Checkin' Out Mingering Mike: D.C. 's Imaginary Soul Superstar features hand-drawn album covers, drawings, and song lyrics by self-taught Washington, D.C. artist known only by his alter-ego, Mingering Mike. On view at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library are fine art prints of thirteen albums, all originally drawn between 1968 and 1975, as well as a selection of original albums and handmade cabaret posters.

Image
Collage of Mingering Mike drawings courtesy of Dori Hadar

 

About Mingering Mike:

Growing up in Washington D.C.in the late 1960s and 1970s—the era of WOL, WOOK and WUST radio, of record stores like Waxie Maxie’s and Soul Shack—the dream of becoming a famous soul singer and songwriter took hold. With the made-up stage name Mingering Mike, the teenaged artist produced more than fifty albums, managed thirty-five record labels, and produced and starred in nine motion pictures —all fictional, products of an awe-inspiring imagination.

Over time, the themes of love and heartbreak in Mike’s lyrics gave way to social themes surrounding the turbulent era of civil rights protests and political upheaval — brought even closer to home when Mike went underground dodging the Vietnam War. ­­­­­­­­­­Mike’s fascinating career was largely unknown until 2003, when Dori Hadar, a DJ and record collector, discovered a trove of his cardboard LPs, many with painstaking liner notes, in a crate at a flea market outside RFK Stadium.

Mingering Mike’s fantastical career became a reality as his artwork was published and exhibited worldwide. In 2013 the Smithsonian American Art Museum acquired the Mingering Mike "record" collection, and Mike had his own show at the museum in 2015. From his early years to more recent “anniversary albums” and drawings, the reclusive artist remains an anonymous observer of everyday life in the District.

Special thanks to Mingering Mike, Mary Early, Dori Hadar, Jason Cherkis, the Archives of American Art—especially Jennifer Snyder and Ben Gillespie, Princeton Architectural Press, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum for their assistance with this exhibit.

All images below, courtesy of Mingering Mike and HEMPHILL Artworks 
Credits (from left to right):

Mingering Mike
Funkadelic, Maggot Brain, 2022
pen and marker on paper, 11 x 8 1/2 inches

Mingering Mike
“Live it Up” Once A Week with Wolf Pack, 1974
pen, pencil, and colored marker marker on posterboard, 14 x 22 inches

Mingering Mike
“Live it Up” Once A Week with Wolf Pack, 1974
pen, pencil, and colored marker marker on posterboard, 14 x 22 inches

Explore Further

Related Videos

Meet the Artist: Mingering Mike on his Creative Process and Artistic Inspirations, 2019

Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2019
(2:32 min)

 

Interview with Mingering Mike, 2010

Courtesy of the Nasher Art Museum, Duke University
(5:43 min)

Re:Frame | Can Mike Really Sing?, 2019

Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum
(5:43 min)