Victoria Fuller on Playboy, Art, and Inspiration
By Juliette Fretté
I first met Victoria Fuller one evening the week before Halloween at the Playboy mansion. It was “Pumpkin Night” and she was sitting right across the room from me. Amongst a sizable group of young women (including Hef’s celebrated girlfriends Holly, Bridget, and Kendra) we all began to carve our own jack-o-lanterns at the dining room table surrounded by evil treats, carving utensils, and party favors. Noticing her immediately, I was intrigued by her genuine, organic vibration and outgoing personality. Who is she? I wondered as I helplessly pulverized my pumpkin into a gaping seedy cave. I finally introduced myself, discovering that Victoria was indeed a Playboy Playmate: Miss January 1996 to be precise – as well as a professional artist, specifically a Pop artist. No wonder I was drawn to her energy: She’s a painter too! Yay!
Telling her about my own art in excited reply, we began a conversation that led us into the library where all Playmate pictorials (and then some) are kept in archival books. From there I was able to view her centerfold and corresponding pictorial, which was not only beautiful (having a sort of fantasy golden glow about it), it also catered to her higher aspirations. Turning the pages to view various images of her in artistic bliss, posed in front of a canvas semi-clad in paint, I noted how her artistic talents were cleverly referenced in the form of this photoshoot theme. How awesome that Playboy would feature her like this, I thought.
Upon further discussion, I soon discovered that Playboy promoted Victoria as a painter in other ways as well. Even though none of her original renderings were featured in the magazine, her bio discussed her passion for art and her goals in becoming a successful professional painter. Furthermore, according to Victoria, Playboy actually launched her career. “I went to Hef with my portfolio and told him my hopes and dreams of becoming a huge successful Female Pop Artist of our time and that I wanted to obtain licensing from Playboy to launch my Pop art career.” And just like that, she got exactly what she wanted. Now, she is literally the only artist in history to have rights to use all trademarks of Playboy such as the rabbit head, the word “Playboy”, the bunny costume, and Playboy magazine covers in her work. And she is still great friends with Hugh Hefner, spending all major holidays at the Mansion. “It’s a very big part of my life. I'm at the mansion up to three times a week – it’s a part of my soul.”
But of course, Victoria was not always painting Playboy icons. Born and raised in Santa Barbara, California, she was constantly creating pieces for her mother and for herself, spending a great deal of time sketching in her room as a child. Growing up during the 1980’s and 90’s, she derived a lot of her inspiration from the emerging MTV pop culture, where music videos lent her images of celebrities to fuel her artistic projects. In this way, she also learned about Playboy: “Hugh Hefner was always on TV for something. I had him confused with Howard Hughes, who I was told was the richest man in the world.” Well, it was an honest mistake, but she was not too far from the truth! “So I grew up wanting to work for Hef. I told my parents I was going to grow up and be a bunny. They thought it was very cute . . . boy were they surprised!”
So how did Victoria and Playboy Enterprises Inc. cross paths? you might wonder. As luck would have it, she was discovered on a modeling shoot by a Playboy scout. “The rest is history,” she says. But of course, she continues to create history (or her-story), namely in the form of her work.
“Being a Playmate was always a dream of mine. I also always thought it would open doors for me to become a successful artist.” And she was right. Moreover, since her art is a reflection of herself, Victoria’s experience as a “bunny” heavily influences all of her creations. Favoring the Pop Art genera above all others, Victoria paints images from popular culture - Playboy icons, for example - and other well-known figures and famous people. Working primarily from photographs, she enjoys black and white images the best. Even though most of her work is relatively planned, every so often her art ends up following a different direction.
Interestingly, as much as Playboy influences her painting, Victoria’s greatest inspiration is her great great grandfather, Benjamin Arthur Bateman. When she was very young, her grandmother told her about her legendary English ancestor, whose art hangs in the Louvre and the Royal Academy. “The stories of his amazing life in the 1800's inspired me to do something great in the art world.”
As for other sources of inspiration, Victoria collects books from all of her favorite artists, which include Warhol, Picasso, Da Vinci, Monet, Renoir, Hockney, and Peter Max. However, the only art that she displays in her home is her own work: “I love huge originals so I will paint something that goes with the room.” These lovely originals can take anywhere from days or months to produce, depending on the detail. A bona fide artist from the beginning, she prefers painting with oils, as she has done for the past 20 years. Having created a number of celebrated art pieces, her favorite one is still “The Back Bunny” the self portrait that had originally launched her career.
Now, Victoria lives with her one-year-old daughter and her husband, whom she actually met through one of her Playmate friends. Curious about the recent addition to her family, I asked her how being a new mother has affected her artistic inclinations, to which she responded: “I thought becoming a mother would change my style or turn me in another direction but it has not. I am only more focused on building my art career because it all comes down to what I can do for my baby and giving her a good life is what motivates me now.”
Aside from providing the best life for her child, Victoria’s highest ambitions are to transcend past the canvas and become the leading female pop artist of her time, build her own brand, and develop an even more successful business. Over a decade after her spread in Playboy, Victoria is in the very best of places. “I am extremely fortunate to make a great living doing something I love.” Very lucky indeed, as most artists often experience difficulty supporting themselves on art alone, hence the term “starving artist.” From what I can tell though, Victoria’s success is a perfect example of luck and talent in harmony.
Guided by a strong connection to spirituality, Victoria believes in the unifying forces of goodness and love, which without a doubt permeates her art and her life. “When I paint and really get into a groove, I feel I am who I am meant to be in this life. I am simply present and aware of my soul in that moment . . . It's hard to explain . . . it’s a oneness I don't feel in any other aspect of my life.” Well, almost no other aspect. Aside from her art and her Playmate career, Victoria is most proud of and connected to her daughter. “She is the brightest light I've ever felt . . . she completes me.”
After all, what better work of art exists in this world?
**To view Victoria’s website, visit: www.victoriafuller.net