My mother has a certain term for people like John Love, Jr. The interdisciplinary artist is her truest definition of a “character.” Eccentric, brilliant and endlessly complex, Love creates his own evolving characters within his work.
With a career spanning 12 pages in his curriculum vitae, Love doesn’t fit into any box. An actor, writer, mystic, he is in all senses an artist. His projects — each its own blend of literature, performance, installation and film—are as “ancient and ageless” as Love himself denotes his years.
A Charlotte native, Love has risen to international fame in the fine arts community. His latest achievement came with his April selection as a 2017 Guggenheim Fellow. Aside from a sizeable monetary prize, the fellowship is an honor with heavy weight behind it. From all across the U.S. and Canada, less than six percent of nearly 3,000 applicants were chosen.
“The nature of conversations has changed” since the award, Love told qnotes. “Some are more willing to talk, some take great pleasure in not, others fly into assumptions of rose strewn pathways and access to rooms without dangerous and invisible ceilings, while there are still those trusted few eager to play as hard and deep as they always have.”
The Guggenheim Foundation profile praises Love’s “creation of worlds defined by blurred lines, glimmering ephemera, and Absurdist kisses to the psyche.” The artist’s seminal work, “FECUND,” was a decisive factor in his application for the fellowship.
“FECUND,” narrated by a character called the Perpetually Pregnant Man, culminates when he births the world of Yes. The work “traverses literature, performance, installation, video, and new media,” Love’s Guggenheim profile reads. It traverses other boundaries as well, as the narrators’ title suggests.
“When your main narrative voice is a character known as The Perpetually Pregnant Man, fluidity and the unfixed are orders of a lifetime,” Love said. In his work, “sexuality and gender race through like bad ass kids playing too feverishly and naked to stop and explain shit.”
Not one for explaining himself either, Love describes his sexuality as “penises make me chuckle.” In terms of gender, the artist identifies with a blend of the traditional binary: “The genitalia screams ‘Ooo baby, it’s a boy!’ and I’m cool with that. However, while it makes the most sense to respond to ‘he,’ I have never been one to give a [care] about making sense to anyone unable to recognize the formidable presence of ‘she’ in my situation.”
As for the future of Love and the Perpetually Pregnant Man, a continuation — or evolution — of “FECUND” is already in the works. The character “falls into a postpartum depressive moment,” Love explained. “While unraveling his most insidious thought he abandons his home that is still able to breathe, think, and speak on its own.
In these travels, the Perpetually Pregnant Man comes across another mystic: Darka Burns Blue. The two “crash into one another at a crossroads of discipline, obsession, freedom, and flight.”
Darka joins the fray, “an ageless, blue skinned woman who repeatedly sets fire to her and her Centaurian lover’s lives. Unafraid of the hand of Change and its tendency to wipe slates clean, she obliterates her existences before fate has a chance to.”
Much like Darka, Love himself is unafraid of change. His travels have taken him to Sweden, France and the farthest reaches of the U.S., but he has continued to loyally return to his birthplace. Loyalty is not blind, however, and Love admits that his hometown is flawed in its hesitation to support local innovators.
“Politically, socially, culturally, and creatively, Charlotte is consumed by fear and cowardice,” he told Weird Charlotte in a 2006 interview. “In fashion, art, theatre, film, music, design, and all things that define a culture, support the creation of the product here, create the product here, use the product here, value the product here, evolve the product here, and sell the product to everyone else. Don’t just be a consumer or an interpreter. Be an originator and make it all so exquisite that everyone wants a piece.”
The artist has undoubtedly taken his own advice, producing exquisite work primarily in the Charlotte area. Though most of his reputation arose from a fine arts career, Love has many other projects and interests. All come back to his urge to create, and his philosophy of introspection and mysticism.
Guiding others through this introspective process is one particular interest of Love’s. Currently, he leads private sessions through Okra, a yoga and meditation studio in Plaza Midwood. His method ranges from conversation, meditation or more spiritual tools. Love may engage in divination in a longer session using his knowledge of astrology, numerology, and methods such as Tibetan dice oracle and Zulu bone oracle.
“[Love] has exceptionally clear vision,” according to Okra’s website. “Intrigued by the architecture of your brilliance, he uses his intuitive abilities, wit, laughter, insight, and common sense to align you with your own magnificence. While he may be privy to information rustling around in your subconscious, Love is a guide in the truest sense in that he recognizes your answers already reside within you.”
Guiding others is just one way that Love delves into mysticism, a driving force in his pursuits. He believes that engaging such subjects is the key to his fulfillment, creative and emotional.
“I am overwhelmingly grateful for my embrace of the ephemeral, for my love affair with things that cling to the psyche far beyond the trace of the physical,” Love said. “It’s why I like the inky and mercurial nature of video and performance, why I adore sculpture and objet d’art made of whispers, salt, crystals, and the earthen…simultaneously archival while poised to return back to the source in a breath.”
Such unfailingly lyrical words flow from him constantly. Another creative endeavor this eloquence serves well is Love’s writing; from 2012 to 2016, Love created an interdisciplinary column for Charlotte Viewpoint called “Provocative Questions for Interesting People.” The series features anonymous subjects, intriguing visuals and colorful prompts for the subjects to answer.
The author’s profile on the Charlotte Viewpoint site notes that his work is “as deliciously complex, circuitous, textural, and contextual as his own nappy hair.”
From past glories to future development, Love embraces the ever-evolving nature of himself, his work and the universe that surrounds us all. In his own words, the artist pursues perpetual growth:
“More depth. More clarity. More power. More poignancy. More life given. More life gotten. More breaths taken away. More beautifully Absurdist.”