radical art/work: meet Queer Yoga Church creator Roger McKeever
Welcome to the latest in our radical art/work series.
This one makes my heart happy.
We're staring down the holiday season right now, and the cultural buzzwords everywhere are all about joy and jollity, faith and family, community and celebration.
But what I so often feel acutely aware of at this time of year, when everything is ostensibly holly-jolly, is the fact that there are many folks who don't feel joyful right now. Families who are grieving the loss of a loved one, young people who are feeling alone or adrift, parents who ache for estranged children, sons and daughters who don't feel welcome or free to be wholly authentic in their families of origin.
The truth is: oftentimes religion, and religious communities — well-meaning as they might be — play a part in that kind of estrangement. And as we fumble through the day-to-day practice of moving gracefully through the world, we learn to create our own life-giving communities; spiritual congregations that may or may not look like the ones we grew up in, but which feed our souls, affirm our wholeness, and celebrate our ability to exhale and find ease in our bodies.
Roger McKeever's radical art/work does exactly that. And it does so at a time when many are us are grappling with big church questions: what a life-giving, representative faith community looks like in the era of Fox evangelicalism, if we progressives can find a way to kick-start a thriving theological movement that embodies tolerance and social justice and systemic equality, and how the heck to find the "right church fit" for our own families, especially for those of us who veer toward the radical, interfaith slant.
This is exactly what that looks like.
So I'll shut up now and give you the one and only.
Take it away, Rog.
What's your medium?
What's your latest project?
Queer Yoga Church
Who's your target audience?
Queer people of all identifications including, but not exclusive to: gay, lesbian, bi, trans, non-binary, asexual, bi-gender, asexual, cis-gendered, fluid.
Three key words that shape your art/work:
Who or what introduced you to this medium?
My experience as a gay man growing up and living in a culture that oppresses, violates, murders, bullies, and condemns queer people gives me motivation to create safe space for people to practice yoga, build community, and feel accepted.
Where do you live and how does your home town/region affect your art/work?
Portland, Oregon. While Portland is generally a very liberal city which gravitates towards identifying with people and beliefs that break out from the mainstream, there is still a reality that there is a need for safe and sacred spaces where a person can come fully as themselves. As long as that separation exists there is a need for something like Queer Yoga Church. The truth is there are so many studios to practice Yoga in Portland, but what is transpiring in this sweet little hour is special. Those who attend cross the lines of division even in the queer community and they take great pride in what has been created. From that, I have inspiration and freedom to create movement, experiences and deeper introspection for this class.
Public or private school education?
Do you have any kind of spiritual practice? What does it look like?
I wake up early most days for my own personal practice of meditation, pranayama, and yoga. It feels like a sacred time to help me to remain connected to my self and grounded so that when I show up to teach classes and interact with others I can be fully present. My journaling and collage/art expression feels like a spiritual practice as well. Recently I’ve been chanting more and learning how to play the harmonium.
Three books that changed your life:
Gandhi: An Autobiography
Pilgrim At Tinker Creek
The Man Who Fell In Love With The Moon
Three artists you admire:
Three causes you're passionate about:
Recently Queer Yoga Church donated several hundred dollars to the Q Center, a local organization working to create a vibrant queer community within the greater Portland Area. This is how we work; we find need or inspiration and respond.
Three teachers who taught you something important:
My mother, who taught me to love even in the face of hatefulness
My science teacher, who caught me at a time when I was alone and insecure in a really dark place. She encouraged me and showed me I was better than that. I feel like in many ways she saved my life.
Patti Glasgow taught me the power of saying “YES” to receiving help from others.
Virginia Woolf famously said a writer needs a room of her own. What do you need to create your art? Any non-negotiables?
I need solitude and quietness so that I can be inspired and create. Humor; the ability to laugh is non-negotiable.
One thing that pisses you off:
Shittiest job you've ever had:
I was a roofer for a summer. My god, that was a horrible time.
What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?
You’re beautiful. You’re a hot sexy stud. Start sowing your homo wild oats now. Hahaha, no really. It gets better.
Secret pop culture crush:
Mike Hadreas of Perfume Genius
Biggest challenge of your art/work?
Breaking through the walls of people’s stereotypes of what yoga is or how they should be. For example: “I’m not flexible enough” or “I don’t have a yoga body."
Website and social media links where we can follow you and learn more about your art/work?
Queer Yoga Church takes place Sunday mornings from 10-11am at 1028 SE Water Ave in Portland, OR.
Thanks for reading.
Roger is one of those artists who inspires me in a thousand big and small ways. I'm glad you got to meet him, too. Spend a little time putzing around his website and his Instagram feed for a glimpse into his vibrant, vital self.
You can find past profiles in our archives here: rad folks from illustrators to poets to storytellers to actors, doing powerful, bold work in the world.
Keep doing you.
See you next week.
Rachel Meyer is a Boston-based writer and yoga teacher. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, On Being, Yoga Journal, Tricycle, Yoga International, HuffPost, and more. You can find her at www.rachelmeyeryoga.com or @rachelmeyeryoga.