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John W. Love Jr. 

The enigma

Don't try to put John W. Love Jr. in a box. Is he an actor? A dancer? A poet? A set designer? A painter? A singer? The answer is: "yes ... all of the above." And, probably "yes" to a vast and varied array of other things. But there is one constant: John W. Love Jr. is art.

"All the labels don't really mean anything to me, but they help people in terms of figuring out a place to put me," he said. "For me, it's all about creativity; it all comes from the same place. It's all rich expressions of this crazy imagination of mine, and I will use whatever medium is at my disposal."

Love, a Charlotte native, has traveled the world performing and showing his work, which has appeared in exhibits, on stage and in public spaces across the globe — from the bright lights of New York to Sweden. He has a strong drive to create and finds the beauty in the simplicity of everyday life.

"Everything is an influence," he said. "I'm inspired by the poetry of life ... by the poetic moments of existence. That can be the way an elderly person is walking down the street or it can be something gorgeous that I just read or witnessed." But Love is quick to point out that he doesn't draw his inspiration from other artists.

"As a creative, I've never been one to emulate others," he said. "I've never been one to sort of look for myself in somebody else's work. I don't get my validation creatively from that or get my validation as a human being that way."

As all over the place as Love is with his artistic pursuits (he even teaches a meditation class three times a week at Dialect Design), there is structure in his madness. A trained dancer, singer and actor, he takes his work seriously. "A lot of people think that artists just do what they feel, which makes me chuckle — because the reality is, even if you're doing what you feel, there has to be a level of craft and discipline to bring what you feel to life," he said. "I'm incredibly analytical when it comes to my work, and I think that shows."

Few people in Charlotte know the city's art scene as intimately as Love, as he has been a part of it the majority of his 40-plus years. While he sees it growing, he said it is very divided.

"There are people who have seen me act in film or on television, but they've never seen me act on stage or never seen any of my poetic work," he said. "Then there's people who have seen my performance work, but they've never seen any of my installation pieces. There's a lot of different [art] communities here."

And Love embraces them all as he continues to break down boundaries. Because to him — pure and simple — art is art.

All Black History in the Making content:

Calvin Richardson
John W. Love Jr.
Ayisha McMillan
Quentin 'Q' Talley
Ida Divine
Catherine Courtlandt-McElvane

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