Friday, June 01, 2007
Art full of soul
A few weeks ago, I was a wee bit snotty about a selection made by Very Short List, so I'm delighted to announce that they've more than made up with it by highlighting the oeuvre of Mingering Mike.
Mike had dreams of musical success while he was a teenager in Washington, DC, in the 60s and 70s but, like so many, the dice never quite rolled right for him. So he took matters into his own hands, creating album sleeves on squares of cardboard, depicting a parallel universe of music, featuring himself alongside the likes of Audio Andre, Joseph War and Miss Linda Landtree - all of them products of his imagination. His fanaticism for detail was such that as well as the sleeves, he designed and made the discs himself, drawing the labels and even the grooves onto card circles.
I sometimes feel uneasy about what's called 'outsider art'. All too often, enthusiasm becomes voyeurism, as onlookers develop a voyeuristic fascination with the creative lives of people who are often deeply psychologically damaged. It's like a modern Bedlam, with connoisseurs taking a quick detour to laugh at the crazies, before coming back to the comfort zone of 'real' art.
But Mike's art expresses a longing with which so many of us can empathise, whatever our relationship with mental health services. I wrote back in January about the joy of being in a band that never quite exists. All Mike is doing is to give expression to his frustrated dreams in another form. In his own head, he's a star, and by committing that mental picture to scraps of cardboard, he makes it a reality in our heads as well. Minger on!