Architecture & Design

Graphic Designer James Victore Says Vagina Is for Lovers

Images courtesy of James Victore
James Victore is a controversial graphic designer who makes images that are engaging, direct, and really freaking neat. It's easy to understand why this artist named his book Victore or, Who Died and Made You Boss? As cocky a title as it seems, he's just that good.

His trusting clients range from Moët & Chandon to the New York Times and the School of Visual Arts where he's as a professor. Victore provides them, and us, not only with intriguing ads, but with high art. His new book showcases 48 of his most powerful projects. We interviewed the man himself about uranus, Johnny Cash, and his upcoming talk at ArtSeen (2215 NW Second Ave, Miami) tonight at 6:30 p.m.

New Times: Much of your work is nuanced. For instance, the

bunnies in the "use a condom" image. It seems to be conveying something

complex without using too much visually or a ton of words. Are you just

naturally talented or was there some way you honed these skills? 


If you do something long enough, you are going to get good at it. I am a

whittler. I try to take complex ideas and hone them down to some simple

essence and make them sharp and flexible. I am not a fancy designer. I

place a simple, strong image front and center -- often without the aid of

colors or a selection of fancy typography.

In an interview with Step Inside Design, you said you're not an activist. Many of your images have a strong social message or social consciousness. Is there something about being an activist that doesn't appeal to you? Or you don't think that social action could take place as a result of your ads?
I am not a politico or pundit. People in that arena cannot have an opinion, in fear of scaring off any followers. I am free to say what I believe and, in turn, am amazed when others believe the same. Professionally, I am a designer, but I cannot separate my work from my convictions. I feel free at any time to inject my work with poetry or humor or sex appeal or, hell, even politics. But this, in a clients mind, may make me a bit like TNT that has been sitting too long - volatile and dangerous. But I can live with that. And MY clients love me for it.

The Dirty Dishes project you've been working on ... it's a subversive act to steal plates and redefine them with a Sharpie. Is there any significance to the fact that you're using dinnerware as a canvas? 
It is a simple change of form and content. When I write, "Vagina is for lovers" on a plate, it somehow has much more impact than to say it on a bumper sticker. I no longer use Sharpies but am working with a ceramacist to make real, usable plates. I like the idea of using a large, 22-inch platter that reads "Uranus" to toss your salad. Also, I just love food.

What are you going to talk about tonight in Miami?

I have a simple talk titled, "How to Read My Book." In it, I talk about both the structure of the book and the ideas encased in it. This is a book about teaching and teachers, or in my case, heros. I discuss my influences, from AC/DC to Evel Knievel to Robert Frost. I am also very excited to show some of my newer efforts in film making. There may be a rant or tirade as well. These things are never planned.

I'm not sure if you have a car, living in New York, but if you did, would you put a bumper sticker on it that reads, God Bless Johnny Cash? I ask because I have one on my car, and I saw that you're a fan. How does music influence your work? 
I drive a four-wheel drive F-150 pick up in New York City. Fuck political correctness. In stickers, it proudly sports an American flag, as well as motocross and surfing stickers. (I'd like one of your CASH stickers). Music is a huge influence on my work. Johnny, Marley, Guthrie, Dylan, they invest their work with such political and social import, that as an designer and artist I have to ask myself, "Why can't I?" Designers possess such amazing powers through words and imagery, it boggles my mind why we don't wield it. 

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Liz Tracy has written for publications such as the New York Times, the Atlantic, Refinery29, W, Glamour, and, of course, Miami New Times. She was New Times Broward-Palm Beach's music editor for three years. Now she plays one mean monster with her 2-year-old son and obsessively watches British mysteries.
Contact: Liz Tracy