Kim Davis has pissed off the wrong faggot. On Wednesday, gay artist and self-described cult leader JJ Brine cast a spell on the Kentucky legal clerk because she refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples in the name of her religious rights.
"Butcher white Americans," Brine said.
It's not surprising Brine decided to curse Davis. Over the past decade, Brine's life has repeatedly overlapped with America's biggest news stories. He worked for Brent Scowcroft, George H.W. Bush's national security advisor, and last year Brine befriended Amanda Bynes. Around the same time Bynes tweeted that her father had molested her, tabloids started covering her relationship with the cult leader. (Bynes later took back the accusation, blaming it on a microchip in her head.)
At the center of Brine's notoriety is the Vector Gallery—his Satanic art gallery filled with paintings of Charles Manson, neon signs, and golden mannequins. Net artists and club kids have gravitated to the space, but it's not just for millennials. Both John Waters and Bruce LaBruce—the gay underground's biggest legends—have praised the Vector Gallery as fine art.
Some of Brine's friends, though, see Vector as a cult. After all, Brine calls himself "the crown prince of hell," describes Vector as a "cult" and "state," and grants his favorite fans and friends ministry positions in the "Vector Government." (His friend Elyse Cizek, for instance, serves as "the Minister of Mannequins.") Vector is sort of like the Ministry of Magic in Harry Potter, except gayer and filled with Satan worshippers instead of wizards. When I asked Brine if he's running a gallery satirizing a cult or an actual cult that also functions as a gallery, he said, "It's all of those things."
For two years, Brine operated Vector in Manhattan's Lower East Side, but last month he moved the space to Los Angeles in the middle of New Yorkers' newsworthy great migration to Southern California. He has yet to find an apartment in Los Angeles, so he and his boyfriend have been flip-flopping between a Holiday Inn, Hotel Figueroa, and "a couple other random spots."
The new gallery highlights Brine's trademark pieces (Charles Manson paintings and golden manikins) but he has upgraded the gallery to include new art pieces: Two mailboxes (one labeled "Lord," the second called "Satan"); broken mirrors as a ceiling; and a giant sign that says "BUTCHER WHITE AMERICANS FOR ART." Walking past a painting of swastikas drawn on the head of KFC's Colonel Sanders last night, one gallery guest said, "This is the most accurate thing I've seen so far."
Brine was cursing Davis at his second performance in the new venue—a series featuring appearances from Vector government members, including Annaliese Nielsen's Girl Group, an uber exclusive secret Facebook group for trendy LA girls. Nielsen attended middle school with Brine in Florida, and they recently reconnected. Between her puffy blonde hair and penetrating eyes, Nielsen seemed like the kind of powerful socialite only a palm tree mecca like Florida could breed. Outside the Vector Gallery, Nielsen's friend Jenna confirmed this, saying Nielsen managed Los Angeles club nights and was starting a new social network.
"Annaliese is a very smart businesswoman," Jenna said. "She's very good at putting on gatherings—obviously. She has beautiful hair."
Brine and Nielsen had been planning the event before Davis became a household name. The idea to use the performances to curse Davis came when Brine invited me to the event via text. I joked that he should put a spell on Davis because it'd be a funny VICE article, and he said a curse was already in motion.
"Eye [sic] think it's already working rather well if I do say so myself," Brine wrote back. "Everything is precisely that which it is not, so her curse is already the plot, but here We Wind the Clock [sic]."
Via email, I asked Brine why he wanted to curse Davis, and he sent me a meme he had created:
When I asked what the spell would do to her, he emailed another meme as his comment:
For last night's rituals, Brine wore a black jumpsuit, a feather crown, and platform shoes, as any fashionable gay cult leader would. The performances, Brine said, functioned as the physical part of the curse. To Brine, any physical action is a prayer, and every prayer is a curse.
Throughout the night, a woman named Liat sang about the Holocaust in Hebrew, another girl named Annelise asked guests to pull out tarot cards with quotes from her 14-year-old diary written on them, and the Girl Group walked around, cursing Davis with just their presence. At one point, Torie, the Minister of Synthetic Light, recited a poem about the power of femininity. These women's prayers—whether they knew it or not, Brine said—cursed Davis.
I wasn't sure what this meant, so I followed Brine into his backroom AKA the "Interfaith Chapel." Gold paper covered the small room's walls, and tiny papers saying "SUNNI" were thrown around the floor.
"At the [gallery] opening [in August], we had people list if they were Sunni or Shiite," Brine explained.
Around 9 PM, a huge crowd gathered outside Vector's neon-lit windows. Few people seemed to know they were participating in the spiritual murder of America's most infamous Jesus junkie. Some visitors—nearly all girls—said they had come to audition for a spot in Vector government, while LA art kids said they had come to see the controversial gallery everyone in New York, from critics to Real Housewives, had been discussing in the last few years.
Brine had advertised the event on social media platforms, including an app called 5 Every Day, which tells users about five events to attend every night in different cities. This app led two 22-year-old British tourists named Tahndi and Dan to come to Vector. Tahndi was studying art at Goldsmiths in London and assumed the gallery was purely satirical. The mention of cults and curses scared her, but after I explained how people were auditioning, she calmed down.
"It kinda sounds like American Idol!" she said.
In comparison to Donald Trump and the other personalities that have dominated American news lately, Brine and the Vector Gallery aren't scary at all. Matt Dell, a 20-something guest outside the venue, said he found Kim Davis freakier than Brine or anyone in the Vector government.
"In 2015, the idea that homosexuality shouldn't be accepted, the act that it's on TV, and you see thousands of people cheering on this women's behalf—it's cult-like," Dell said. "[Davis and her fans aren't] a cult that's remote. It's in the middle of our country. It's crazy."
Back in the chapel, Brine and his followers were hoping his spell would bring Davis and her fringe religious movement down. I returned to the golden room, and Brine asked me to sit between him and Torie, the Minister of Synthetic Light, who was wearing a purple pantsuit.
"[Your] article is the release of the spell [on Davis]," Brine explained.
Reading off of an unlit candle, Torie shouted quotes from the Book of Revelations at Brine, while he recited Revelations quotes to her. Their screaming eventually transforming into synchronized singing.
"A-la-wite state," Torie and Brine slowly sang. "Al-a-wite state."
It sounded like they were chanting "all white state." Brine later told me that he was referring to the Alawite State. Although the Alawite State was a French mandate territory on the coast of Syria after World War I, Brine was speaking about the Alawite sect, "the sectarian affiliation of the Syrian president, [Bashar al-Assad]." But as with all things associated with the gay cult leader, meaning is ultimately subjective.
Torie leaned on me; my pulse increased. I've spent months writing about Brine—I trust him—but I was also in a golden closet with a boy who called himself "the crown prince of hell." I wasn't sure what was going to happen next. I took deep breaths to calm down.
"Al-a-wite state. Al-a-wite state."
As my pulse slowed from my breaths, the spirit of the Vector took over me. I impulsively started whispering along with them. Then our chant became faster and clearer. Together, we began screaming, "ALAWITE STATE! ALAWITE STATE!"
I thought we were chanting, "all white state." Regardless of what we were saying, everything clicked: Brine's memes, his performances, the giant painting at the entry that said "BUTCHER WHITE AMERICANS FOR ART." Brine wanted his spell to stop religious bigots like Davis from ruining people's lives in the name of a God they have never met. Casper is a friendly ghost, and JJ Brine is a good cult leader.
"All white state!" I yelled. "All white state! All white state!" We continued chanting until Torie stopped. She sat up, blew the imaginary fire out on her candle, leaned in, and then whispered: "No hate."