Local Arts

Charlotte artist named 2017 Guggenheim Fellow

John W. Love Jr., in a characteristically mysterious portrait.
John W. Love Jr., in a characteristically mysterious portrait.

Charlotte’s John W. Love Jr. was named a 2017 Guggenheim Fellow on Friday, winning the venerable award in the fine arts category.

The fellowships, given “on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise,” went to 173 artists, scholars and scientists across the United States and Canada, and were chosen from nearly 3,000 applicants this year. It’s the 93rd year of the awards.

Love, an artist whose work crosses a plethora of categories, has been a fixture on the Charlotte arts scene for years. Fans will not be surprised at how he characterizes his Guggenheim application: “I showed up in the way I show up: unvarnished, conscientious, irreverent, highly artful, meticulous, [colorful reference we’ll omit, suggesting boldness and full-throttle speed] ...”

What will he do with the fellowship? He says it will flow from “FECUND,” the interdisciplinary work he did after becoming the first individual artist to win the Arts & Science Council McColl Award, in 2011. He says the Guggenheim will allow him “to fold this engagement into some other engagements down the line... Every time something like this (the award) happens, it can help people to say yes a little faster.”

But what is the work? Part performance, part visual art, in what he’s calling immersive installations.

The narrator of his “FECUND” was a character he called the Perpetually Pregnant Man. “In ‘FECUND’ we saw him sort of in the throes of all these characters working through him. But in this upcoming work, we see the evidence of him being on the road ... what happens when someone basically runs away: sightings, evidence of what they’ve seen, what they’ve inspired.” Oh, and a character named Darka Blue: “She’s mythic and surreal ...”

Intrigued? So was the Guggenheim.

Love says when he spoke with a foundation person during the multi-tiered application process, “I asked, ‘How do you guys feel about the fact that the project is eventually going to change?’ He said, ‘John, we don’t care. We just care about you.’ 

On the Guggenheim’s website, his work is described this way: “John W. Love, Jr. traverses literature, performance, installation, video, and new media in the creation of worlds defined by blurred lines, glimmering ephemera, and Absurdist kisses to the psyche. As characters yawn at the banality of realness and laugh in the face of truth, our cultural ists and isms are turned inside out in an entralled navigation of sex, money, power, beauty, identity, humor, and the keen of silence.”

Love won a 2017 fellowship from the N.C. Arts Council, did a recent residency at the Anchorage Museum, and has been a McColl Center artist-in-residence twice. He declined to quantify the Guggenheim award right now, though he was willing to note that “it’s the most money I’ve ever gotten.”

N.C. author Ron Rash was also awarded a Guggenheim, in fiction. The latest book from that New York Times best-selling writer, who teaches at Western Carolina, is “The Risen.”

Helen Schwab: 704-358-5250, @helenschwab