Lots of kids create their own fantasy worlds, populating them with monsters or superheroes—representations of friends and family, persecutors and allies, foils and alter-egos. For some, it’s a way of getting by when they don’t fit in, or of escaping the hard reality of their daily lives.
Mingering Mike was one of those kids with a vivid fantasy world. As a young man growing up in Washington, D.C. in the late 1960s, he didn’t think of himself an artist. He was Mingering Mike—a made-up character for the musical world he inhabited in his mind. “Mingering” was jabberwocky, a mash-up of words he created. Mike wasn’t his real name, either. But even as he toiled behind closed doors—insulating himself from a sometimes chaotic home life and then a bit later from those who might report him for evading the Vietnam draft—he strove for stardom and recognition. Now, decades later, at the age of 64, his early fantasy-life creations are on display in the new exhibition “Mingering Mike’s Supersonic Greatest Hits” at the Smithsonian American Art Museum through August 2, 2015.