You’ve probably seen Mike Germon at a local art opening or an indie rock show. He’s the tall, quiet guy wearing a baseball cap and sometimes snapping pictures. You might not know it, but Germon has his hands in plenty of Atlanta art happenings: curating shows at MINT Gallery, creating intricate collage work, designing t-shirts for Streetela…the list goes on. He’s also shamed us in Scrabble. We brought Germon to the picturesque setting of the Atlanta Botanical Garden to explore the different hats he both figuratively and literally wears.
BURNAWAY: Where are you from originally?
Mike Germon: Sort of just outside of Decatur—just inside the perimeter. I went to Druid Hills High School and graduated in 2000.
BA: You’re known in Atlanta for working in collage. Did you work in collage in undergrad?
MG: Not really, I started making collages out of all of the work I had accumulated from four years of art school. I have a BFA in Digital Media from the University of Georgia. I like to think I’m shockingly unpretentious for someone who claims to have graduated from art school; but that in itself is pretentious.
BA: What sorts of materials do you prefer working with?
MG: I prefer books to pretty much everything else. [I] don’t really like magazines [because of] the content. Art History and Science books are the best.
BA: Do you cut things out as you’re going to use them, or do you go through and cut out a ton of material when you first get a book?
MG: Both, I usually go through phases of just cutting tons of stuff out but then I’ll also go back and look for specific things when I’m working on a piece.
BA: How do you organize the stuff once you’ve cut it out if you aren’t using it immediately?
MG: I’ve got a shoe box and a three-ring binder. The shoe box is organized like the layers of the earth with things that are forgotten deep below—clippings waiting to be excavated.
BA: Your website, ThoughtMarker, recently got a face-lift. What is the story behind ThoughtMarker?
MG: [I started ThoughtMarker in] December of 2006. Originally it was to help with the promotion of alternative spaces and the sort of underground art scene that was happening in Atlanta. I think it was filling a need online that wasn’t really being met; this was before BURNAWAY and before Creative Loafing’s blog really got going. Now that those sites do such a good job with promotion, I feel less pressure to promote every event. Recently I’ve just posted things that I really like and get my favorite artists to do an occasional tee-shirt design for me. I like where it is right now. I don’t feel like I have the pressure I did before to post advertisements. It’s more casual. I really like the way that it looks, so I’m much happier with the situation. I also just started doing the blogs for Streetela and am one of their artists.
BA: How did MINT Gallery come about?
MG: Erica and Andrew and some other people started it a while ago and I was in a couple of their first group shows. And then I had a show I wanted to curate, which ended up being the first mixed tape show we did, after which I just came on board and helped with the shows. That was originally before they even had a space. The mixed-tape show was the first one in the old space.
BA: You’ve been curating shows for a while and it seems like they’re getting a lot more focused.
MG: We try to have a wide variety of stuff because we want to be a stepping stone. Sometimes it’s a big group show that’s vague so people have the opportunity to show for the first time, and other times we want to do something more specific so that they’re harnessing more sophisticated skills; something more conceptually sophisticated. We also let outside people curate. I don’t have any interest in curating a really broad group show based on a theme. Plenty of people are doing that.
BA: MINT Gallery relocated earlier this year. How is the new space?
MG: The new space has been great. We were a little concerned because we had impossibly high ceilings at the last space which allowed for potentially really crazy things to be in there. Now we have low ceilings and it’s more of a gallery-shaped gallery. But the benefits of the great outdoor space we have sort of outweighs that.
BA: When you’re curating, how do you come up with ideas for the shows? Are they shows artists propose to MINT or do you dream them up and fit artists in?
MG: MINT tries to mix that up as much as possible. Some shows are thought up in-house, some are student exhibitions, and some are proposals from guest curators.
BA: Do you prefer curating or showing your work?
MG: I think it’s always more exciting to show your own work.
BA: What do you do for your day job?
MG: Sometimes I do art department work for commercials and music videos. Sometimes I do graphic design, contract based. I do some design and some other miscellaneous stuff: all kinds of stuff.
BA: What’s your middle name?
BA: What do you think the future holds for you?
MG: I feel like I just recently, or I guess it’s been a minute, but I’ve figured out the direction I like making art in. That’s something that you’re supposed to learn in school but it doesn’t always happen. The art I make right now is almost nothing like what I was making in school. I have to figure out how to make that bigger and better.
BA: You wear a lot of hats in the arts community. Do you think you just want to only do art?
MG: I want to make a group show of group shows. How about that? Different people make group shows and they’re all in one space: a meta-group show.
BA: Do you just like hats a lot?
BA: How do you select your hats?
MG: I sort of imagined I wanted an animal house, so I went on the internet and found one.
BA: Do you want to do art professionally?
MG: Yeah, I think so. I like that better than calling people on the phone.
BA: What’s your spirit animal?
MG: We recently did a spirit show at MINT and I did some stuff with bats. I really like bats, but I don’t know if they’re my spirit animal.
BA: Do you like Batman?
MG: Yeah, he’s good. I did this exercise on the internet where you have to click on the forest when you feel like an animal is speaking to you and it told me my spirit animal was a koala.
BA: What’s your hidden talent besides humiliating people at Scrabble?
MG: Giving haircuts. Every couple of years I give someone a haircut and it’s always awesome.
BA: We also heard you enjoy puns.
MG: [I have a] pirate themed barber shop called Salon John Silver.
BA: Would you be the hairdresser?
MG: I guess so.
Atlanta Art Crush is an interview series brought to you by Susannah Darrow, Laura Hennighausen, and photographer Sandy Hooper. Look for profiles of our latest heartthrobs on the last Friday of each month.