John W. Love Jr. as The Perpetually Pregnant Man from his interdisciplinary literary, installation and performance work, FECUND. (Photo by Moye, Inclusive Photographer.)
Popular culture might have you believing that the life of an artist is comprised of endless bacchanalia and all things ramen, but John W. Love Jr. is no starch-saturated, stability-starved stereotype.
The multifaceted artist and lifelong Charlottean has worked in a variety of mediums throughout the years, manifesting his energy in literary, performance and visual artistic forms. In 2011 he became the first individual artist to receive the Arts & Science Council’s coveted McColl Award ($25,000), dedicated to supporting the creation of a new work. He just finished his second residency at McColl Center for Visual Arts and is in full-on hustle mode as he prepares for the upcoming debut of FECUND, his interdisciplinary work at the Mint Museum Uptown. (An installation portion of which will be on display in the Mint from May 6-20, and a performance element of the project will take place on May 17.)
How does one survive the stresses that such success can bring? Why, with a thriving meditation practice, of course. Love has been leading locals in guided meditation sessions (one-on-one and in group settings) for years, and his ongoing meditation series at Dialect gallery provides an ideal setting for those looking to fuse an interest in art, mindfulness and community. We recently caught up with him and chatted about his sessions, the role meditation can play in the life of a creative person and more.
Qcitymetro: Your life as an artist has been profiled pretty extensively, but fans of your work may not be aware of your commitment to your spiritual practice. Has this been a long-running endeavor?
Love: Developing and understanding the richness of my interior life, being comfortable playing in that realm, is something that’s been with me since childhood. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t an artist, and then when I was around 7 or 8 I actually discovered a little book called “Yoga in 10 Easy Lessons.” I took myself through that book.
By the time I was in junior high school, I read on my own every day from the Holy Bible, the Holy Quran and the “Three Pillars of Zen.” I went to Piedmont [Middle School], and the arts were a really big thing there; we had guest artists come and work with us. With my training in theater and creative dramatics also came lots of training in yoga and meditation, so this whole world of mind-body awareness has been a part of me for a very long time. My meditative work, creative work and artistry all spring from the same source.
How do these passions inform each other?
When I am motivated by my ideals, I’m very clear on things. If I don’t center and focus myself in this deep, rich, joyous, open way, then the process of writing or acting or performing isn’t going to be as satisfying. It’s a necessity … a part of my process of creating. And so what meditation does is this: I could be in the throes of creating and it could be going well, and then if I take a moment and do a morning and midday and pre-sleep meditation, it’s like … allowing the brain to work in a different way. It’s just enough variety to help keep everything sharp. My life works better when I’m on point and firing on all cylinders with everything that I know that works for me.
What made you decide to take your particular brand of practice to the public?
I’m really intuitive, and I’ve done a lot of that kind of guidance for friends and people in my life — all my life. In 2008, a friend of mine, who I’d done a series of private sessions with, started a group that met at his place. He was a part of a yoga studio and his roommate was as well — [they were] connected to the whole yoga world. I was reading guided meditations there, and then it just evolved so that when circumstances dictated that the location had to change, me leading the guided meditation just continued.
What I say to people with the guided mediation is, I’m going to take you on a journey, and I promise I’ll bring you back. Now I have a pretty vivid imagination, and I really take people places, but at the core it is based in breath and joy. I call that sort of overwhelming bliss we’re all trying to get back to the “yummy.” If you take the judgment out of it, from junkie to yogini, we’re all just trying to get back to the yummy. We have graceful and ungraceful ways of doing it, but bottom line everyone wants to feel good. My meditations are about guiding people to these very, very rich places in themselves — to use their imaginations and dreams and wishes and desires and fantasies and all this stuff to literally change their vibrational field.
There have been scores of studies on the beneficial effects of meditation, but is there anything you want to say to those who might be skeptical of or intimidated by the idea?
I’m not here to convince you of anything. I’m not here to goad you into doing something. I can tell you this: It’s not as scary as you think it is, and you’ll be better when you leave than when you arrived. Because with my meditation, whether you’re a beginner or seasoned, it doesn’t really matter, there’s a way for everybody to get into it.
[At the sessions] some of them are sitting in some sort of upright position, some like to lay on the floor, some like to lay down. If at any point they want to make an adjustment, I tell them they should do so. It’s not about getting hung up on being perfectly still. That’s not what it’s about.
I always start out very simply, encouraging and assisting people, and then I get them to the point where I say to them: “Now everything about you breathes. You are a complex mechanism of breath; all rise and fall, flux and flow and undulation of breathing.” And then I get very specific: “Every inch of flesh, every bone and tendon and ligament, breathe.” Before you know it, in less than five minutes, everybody is in a different place.
My thing about meditating is you can meditate anywhere, at any time. You don’t have to be in quiet room with your eyes closed sitting in lotus, that’s not necessary. If you’re in your car going from point A to point B and you’re completely mindful of driving and everything on the road while being completely mindful of your breath, of opening up to your joy in that moment, well then you’ve still got yourself a meditative experience.
Regularly scheduled group meditation sessions will pause while Love prepares for the debut of FECUND, but private individual and group sessions, as well as intuitive readings, continue to be available. Contact him at email@example.com for more information.
This article is part of the Charlotte Arts Journalism Alliance, a consortium of local media dedicated to writing about the arts.