John W. Love, Jr.
When asked if he always knew that he was an artist , John W. Love, Jr. says, “I always knew that I was creative,” Artist, he says, is a loaded word.
“More importantly than that, even before I knew the word creative, I knew that I had to express. I knew that I was expressive,” he adds. “The yearning, the desire, the need to express in a way that was kind of fantastical or not quite real, or not quite common, was very important to me. Was essential to me, actually.”
He recounts a story of being somewhere between three- and five-years-old and seeing a crayon in his crayon box that said “blue green.”
“In my childhood, imaginative, creative mind, when I saw blue green I thought that that meant that when I used that crayon it would be whatever color blue or whatever color green I wanted it to be,” he recounts. “So then when I would color and it wouldn’t be that, at first I got really really frustrated…but then what I did, was I let go of being frustrated and I did everything in that crayon because it kind of really didn’t matter. But then in my mind, when I looked at the picture I saw every color that I wanted to see. And in that I realized that there was probably more magic in my imagination than in anything else that I was doing.”
That fertile childhood imagination, which would also animate his drawings on the page, he says, so that he could see them come to life, continue to grow and shape him and find new and ever-changing ways to present itself to the public.
His work is interdisciplinary, incorporating performance art, acting, stage and video directing and literary work, and he seems to be in a near constant state of creation.
The Charlotte native was honored as the first recipient of the Arts & Science Council McColl Award for his work FECUND, an experimental installation and one-man performance piece.
His work has taken him to Sweden, Paris, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and, most recently, Alaska, where he was artist-in-residence at The Anchorage Museum.
It was an experience that he cherished in part due to the fact that they do not have, as they put it, “an agenda of outcome.”
“And I love that,” Love says, “that they don’t have an ‘agenda of outcome.’ Their only agenda was that they wanted incoming artists to absorb culture and influence culture.”
He allowed his environment to inform him, while he worked on poetic prose, coming up with a new film performance piece, continuing to develop characters he has brought to life in various performances over the years and filming lots of fur in the Anchorage Museum, which he says he has an idea about utilizing for video work. Texture is important in his work, and while he says he is not particularly into fur himself, it is big in Alaska.
“I absorb everything, and because I see everything through this creative lens…I’m absorbing everything. I’m saying yes to everything.”
He continues to develop characters, both new and old, and is willing to abandon or pick up new concepts as necessary.
“I’m very comfortable saying, ‘Well this is what it is now, and it will probably be different when you see it again, and then different after that,’ because that’s how my stuff goes,” he says. It is the type of boldness that comes from the confidence to follow your muse and make your own magic, as he has been doing since he was a child. Why stop now?
Art was encouraged and present in Francisco Gonzalez’s family when he was growing up, in Mexico.
“When I look back, everybody in my family had the art bug,” Gonzalez says, “it’s just that [starting] when we were very little, we were taught to be lawyers or doctors. Something where you make money.”
He says that a career in art was discouraged, but in the long run that was never going to work on him.
“I’m the one who, even though I tried to do many things, I always came back to the conclusion that I need to do my art,” he says. “I’m the only one who actually dared to do that.”
Gonzalez was in his 30s before he took that leap and he says he sometimes sees artists in their 20s who “already have it going on” and sometimes wonder how much further along he would be if he had been encouraged to consider that option.
Still, he is thankful that he is able to work full-time as an artist, overcoming the messaging that to be an artist is to starve.
Gonzalez’ is a multimedia artist, working primarily with collage, both on paper and canvas, sculpture and last year, for the first time ever, a bit of fashion.
He also took on the challenge of designing a dress using recycled items for the fashion show ecoFAB Trash Couture. He is planning to participate this year as well, which takes place Apr. 23 at Discover U, 420 E Central Ave., in Mount Holly, N.C.
Since participating in the show, he says he has started collecting recycled materials to use in the rest of his work as well, which allows him to continue engaging in a, as he says, “different approach to art.”
His work is abstract and figurative, but he says he is influenced and inspired by nature.
“I think everyone gets inspired by nature. I mean, everything comes from it: the colors people use, the designs, the shapes, everything comes from nature,” he says. “In my case, I don’t approach (it) in the obvious way, to draw flowers or landscapes, but what I take from nature is textures…and colors, and I apply that in abstract form.”
Gonzalez has shown his work throughout the U.S., extensively in Charlotte, N.C., and the surrounding region. He is encouraged by the growing Latin art scene in the area.
“When I went to the McColl Center in 2002, I was the first local Latino artist,” he remembers. “There had been other Latino artists from out of state, but I was the first local one. Now we have art organizations dedicated to bringing spaces and opportunities for Latin artists and there are a lot of communities that have to do with Latin issues. And I have met in the last year, so many Latino artists, from painters to poets to dancers, all local artists here in Charlotte.”
One such organization, of which Gonazalez is a member, is called ArtSi. They help facilitate and create art shows featuring Latino art, in hopes of advancing Latin culture in the city and weaving it into the larger creative community.
Gonzalez admits that at this point most events are attended primarily by those already in the community, but he hopes to see a wider audience start to become aware of and frequent these events.
Either way, he will continue to press forward and make progress as a full-time working artist. He reports that it was not until he began doing so that he felt truly satisfied in life.
“You can only do what you love,” he says, “in order to feel good about it.”
His work is currently on display in a number of spots around town, including: Pura Vida Worldly Art in NoDa, 3202 N. Davidson St.; the Guinan Gallery at The Art Institute of Charlotte, Three LakePointe Plaza, 2110 Water Ridge Pky.; the Max L. Jackson Gallery at Queens University of Charlotte, 2222 Radcliffe Ave.; and the Delurk Gallery, 207 W. 6th St., in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Gil Croy’s work matches his persona: bold, colorful, engaging. If you live in Charlotte, chances are you have seen his eye catching mural on the side of White Rabbit at 920 Central Ave. Or, you may have seen his One World Dragon float in the 2014 Charlotte Pride Parade.
Croy also works as a graphic and interior designer, as well as a photographer. Much of his work directly relates to LGBT issues and themes. In addition to his work as an artist, Croy has long been active in LGBT community organizing efforts.
Croy moved to Charlotte in 1988 and returned after a stint in New York to work as the director of window design and main floor promotion with Macy’s. He currently splits his time between Mooresville, N.C., and Raleigh, N.C., where he has temporarily relocated part time for design work.
He was born in Alabama and raised in Mississippi on a cattle and horse ranch in what he describes as “an extremely religious family.”
When he came out at 13, it was not particularly well received. He sums it up by saying there was a “limited amount of tolerance to it.”
“I was very upfront about who I was,” Croy says.
Croy brushes off the idea that coming out at that age, in that environment, was a courageous act.
“I don’t even call it bravery,” he says. “I was just being honest about who I was…I was just trying to be as honest as I possibly could about my feelings.”
“I didn’t know anyone else that was gay up until late high school. So I felt alone a lot,” he remembers. “Being raised out on a ranch, you can have a tendency to feel that way anyway when you’re an only child.”
The concepts of connection, community and identity come up often in Croy’s work. Sometimes, as in the case of the White Rabbit mural, it is obvious. Other times, it is more subtle, but it is still there. For instance, growing up and feeling isolated, Croy’s pets were important to him. He has a pop pet art series, a portion of the proceeds of which go to Charlotte area animal rescues.
He is also the driving force behind the collaborative Human Canvas Project, a body painting series centered on the concept of unity.
“Under the paint, you don’t know what color the person is, or what the gender is a lot of times, by how we pose, or what the sexuality is,” he says. “Paint, for lack of a better vernacular, is a camouflage for what we see first and judge first, unfortunately, as human beings.”
“It’s an intimate connection between the artist, myself, and the person I’m painting on,” he adds, “Because it does take some time.”
Croy is always balancing several projects at once, but says he finds it rejuvenating to be able to continue working, following his interests where they lead him.