Issue No 17

VICTORE (pronounced vikt(ə)rē)*

BY Periel Aschenbrand

*that’s not actually how his name is pronounced but it was such a good title, I couldn’t resist.


Consider yourself forewarned: James Victore will kick your ass.

This is not a man producing artwork for the faint of heart: A rendering of a Native American in traditional garb that reads: “Celebrate Columbus” (with a skeleton face), a bloodied silhouette of Mickey Mouse that reads, “Disney Go Home,” an adorable white bunny facing an equally adorable chick. But, um, the bunny is calling the chick a “Queer!” and the chick is calling the bunny a “Nigger!”

James Victore is rough and tough and in-your-face. He pulls no punches and makes no apologies. Which is exactly why I like him.

Victore has designed covers for The New York Times Magazine, he has inked a naked Bar Rafaeli for the cover of Esquire, he has designed for Moét and Yohji Yamamoto, designed book covers for some of the most important French philosophers of our time and his work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art.

And if you want to get up close and personal, he offers a one day long symposium which he describes as such: “I wanted to make a symposium but all I could come up with was a revolution.”

He has been described as “part Darth Vader, part Yoda.” And when you visit his website, you are greeted by this introduction: “James Victore, Inc. is an independent studio hell-bent on world domination.” He makes work that is “sexy, strong and memorable; work that tows the line between the sacred and the profane.”

He is a true radical.
But I didn’t know this when I met him.

The only thing I knew was that he had something that I wanted. And come hell or high water, I was going to get it. This was not as easy a task as one might think.

And I only met him because I stalked him. As a rule, I don’t recommend stalking, but in this case, my persistence paid off. I later learned that Victore is nothing, if not committed to making the improbable possible. In other words (if I may borrow a line from Khloe Kardashian, as articulated on RuPaul’s Drag Race): Basic bitches not wanted.

This is what happened:

A couple of years ago, I was surfing the internet looking for a birthday present for a dear friend who “has it all.” Just as I was thinking he is impossible to shop for, something amazing jumped out at me. I’d never seen anything like it before. Yet. . .it looked oddly familiar.

It was a glass bottle, filled with moonshine, with gorgeous writing on the glass. It was like something out of Alice and Wonderland. It read, “No truth was ever writ by drinkers of water.” – Ovid

Ever so pleased with myself (I pride myself on giving great gifts) I put the bottle in my “cart,” got distracted and figured I would buy it later. When later came, the bottle was gone and with it, obviously, any chance of buying it. It was “no longer available” or the “shop” was “closed” or who knows what other “e-thing” had happened. This was a disaster. Not one to take “no” lightly, I went on an e-mission. I searched high and low, snouting out every corner of the world wide web.


As miraculously as it had appeared, POOF. It was gone. 

Finally, I found a website, which boasted being “open” “23 hours a day.” I realized why I was so obsessed with the bottle. I’d never heard of the guy but I definitely recognized his work. Suddenly, it hit me. I couldn’t believe it, but this was the same guy who designed the some of my favorite book covers.

And now, I was really on a mission. I fired off a desperate email to an address that seemed as though it would make it to his studio. Lo and behold, I thought. Emily Dickinson was correct. Hope really is the thing with feathers. Within moments, I was thinking that maybe Emily Dickinson wasn’t so right after all. Which is maybe why she was such an introverted recluse. But I digress.

I got an email back saying they were sorry, but they had stopped selling merchandise online BUT they would be sure to let me know when (and if) they resumed.


I was like, I don’t fucking think so. I don’t know who you think you’re dealing with, but I am getting that bottle if it is the last thing I ever do.

I wrote back an impassioned plea and, like a beacon in the night sky, I got another email, this time from James Victore himself. He was like, Listen, you’re a pain in the ass, but bully for you. I’ll sell you the bottle. Also, I know your work. I like it. We should do something together some time.

The next morning, over coffee, we were making plans of world domination together. At that time, I was opening a small (and since failed) online boutique, where I worked as an “art pimp” (as he called me) of his for a time. It was during this period that I was allowed the great honor of digging through his studio, which, as you can imagine, is filled with great gems. One of things I learned from this adventure was that in addition to being a serious badass, James Victore is a true romantic. He shoots guns, but he also writes his gorgeous wife, Laura, a love note every morning.

And everything in that studio is a piece of art because one of the things Victore is not is a snob. That means that everything is fair game—from a scrap of paper to a plate, if he touches it (and if he has a paint pen, he might) he turns it into art.

He’s kind of like Picasso for the people. I mean, not really, but you get my drift. Put it this way, James Victore has serious tricks up his sleeve. I mean, this is a guy who makes unicorns shit rainbows. And, also, by the way, does a mean impression of Psy from Gangnam Style.