Work of Art’s The Sucklord on How the Kids Challenge Ruined Him
The Sucklord entered Bravo's Work of Art a brazen supervillain, but left defeated by, among other things, his sentimental side. At the end of this week's episode, he went home after co-designing a colorless maze as street art, a project that he says was the result of having been beaten down physically and emotionally by the competition. "I didn't see it coming but once it came it made total sense to me," he says. "There's not a lot of sleeping that goes on in these things. I was practically half-asleep throughout the entire challenge so I wasn't totally cognizant of what was going on, as evidenced by the mediocrity of my art work. I failed the challenge, I failed the show, I failed the competition. It was time for me to get the hell out of there."
TVGuide.com spoke to The Sucklord (nee Morgan Phillips) on Thursday about why he thinks the kids challenge crippled him and why he's working on a China Chow action figure over, say, a Jerry Saltz one. Plus, his thoughts on Lord of the Rings vs. Star Wars, Lola vs. Sarah K, Jerk of Art, penises, and more:
Work of Art's Bayete: I couldn't pull it together at all
Your partner in the street art challenge, Sarah K., appeared to be the brains behind that maze. Why do you think the judges spared her?
Sucklord: It's obvious to me why. I hate to say it, but I think Bill Powers of all people was right: That piece was lacking my voice. That was the problem. Whether it was good or bad, that was the type of thing Sarah K. does. It was clearly more her than me. If it had been a Suckadelic piece, it would have been this gigantic 'F--- you' with all these f---ing deranged Star Wars people all over it, and a 'F--- Jerry Saltz' somewhere. But that's not where my head was at. I was morally destroyed by that point. That's the best I could come up with. At the end of the day, that tiny rat crawling around the edge of the maze was where I was at. That was my contribution and the fact that it was so tiny and diminished was really had had happened to my own voice. ...By putting myself into the competition, I was submitting to a maze if you will, a sort of psychological experiment, and that was the end result: it turned me into the opposite of what I was supposed to be. I was supposed to be this big f---ing supervillain, and I turned out to be this big softie, mushy-mush that cared about everybody and was willing to, like, go down rather than let someone else lose. (Laughs) That's what happened to me, and maybe that's a beautiful thing for a human being but as an artist it was a failure.
Was the emotional Sucklord a revelation for you?
Sucklord: I mean, I'm painfully aware that that person exists inside me. It does determine a lot of how I operate in the world. But, like anybody, and maybe for me it's more exaggerated, but everybody has this outer self they project, their ego ... but in a competition like this, that ego gets broken down, especially if you keep losing. They deprive you of sleep. They criticize and judge the s--- out of you and make you feel like a loser. Also, I got partnered with that kid and the kid made me start feeling all sentimental, and once that happened, I lost my edge. It's great as maybe a human experience, but you know, the ego for me is what makes the art work, not the sentimental person. That's why all my offerings after the kids challenge were utter garbage.
How about before the kids challenge? Do you think the judges got what you were about? Were you putting your best stuff forward?
Sucklord: Well, I think the Gandalf challenge was pretty bad. The first mistake I made was misunderstanding the kitsch challenge: I picked the piece of art work that I thought was great already, so what could I do with it except make it worse. And also, it was Lord of the Rings, and I can be sarcastic and ironic with Star Wars until the end of the universe, but with Lord of the Rings, I have too much reverence for it to do anything really transformational. It actually reverted me back to the kind of art work I did when I was 8 years old and I first started really getting into Lord of the Rings. That was a failure. But the motion challenge was more successful. That Flip the Rat, as ugly as that type of thing was, that was totally me. And the Winning Collection was also me. [The judges] didn't seem to give a s--- about those. Maybe there was other art work that was better and got the attention, but once the kids challenge came along and once Jerry Saltz told me I couldn't use Star Wars anymore and I agreed to that, that was really when I lost. When I agreed with his assessment that was when I really lost the game.
You've since made a couple of Jerk of Art pieces. How soon after you were sent home did you make that?
Sucklord: The idea came to me two days after I was sent home. Like, "Wow, I should have made Jerk of Art on that wall." It was something that ruminated in my mind. And then I thought what most paralleled my experience was that Charlie Brown cartoon where he goes to the spelling bee and all his friends are rooting for him and he gets everything right until he has to spell "beagle," the kind of dog Snoopy is, and he blows the most obvious word. ... I should have nailed that street art, but I failed. That made me feel like Charlie Brown, so I put him in as a parallel to my own experience.
Was it therapeutic making it?
Sucklord: Well, I just thought it was something that had to be said. That's what I do, I make those little toys and they say things about me. I wanted to at least go back and show what I can do with the action figure as far as making some sort of commentary about myself.
You recommended that reality TV stars carry something they can sell at all times, and tweeted that you just sold something to a fan who approached you for $10? What was it?
Sucklord: Just Suckadelic trading cards, a SuckPax. I have my own line of trading cards and I just happened to have something on my personage and I figured I'd sell it to them if they want a piece of it.
Lola or Sarah K.?
Sucklord: Neither. That was all just a bunch of smoke and mirrors. I have a girlfriend who I am really in love with. She wasn't too happy about the way I was behaving on the show and I understand why she feels bad and I feel regretful. But you know, you put me around a bunch of girls and I'm gonna talk s---. It's actually caused damage in my relationship, so I'm picking my girlfriend over everyone else in the world.
Have you found a way to make it up to her yet?
Sucklord: Still in the process. Having seen some of the outtakes of this episode, it's not too pretty.
It was a very penis-happy episode. Michelle seems particularly obsessed. Truth or editing?
Sucklord: Uh, you'll have to ask her about the penis thing. I'm a guy, so obviously I have a penis thing. Penises are powerful. They're a big part of the human existence. It seems natural that people are going to be thinking about them and putting them in their art work.
The whole house looks like a randy place.
Sucklord: Hey, man. Everyone there was pretty outgoing, expressive people. Everybody likes to joke about that kind of stuff. I don't know — it's like that wherever I go, so it didn't seem so unusual to me.
What are you working now?
Sucklord: I'm going to be mixing Transformers with Occupy Wall Street. I'm working on a China Chow action figure. I'm just sticking to the Suckadelic program, I'm pushing my trading cards, I'm working on my next Toy Lords of Chinatown video and I'm just trying to build my business. I don't deal with the gallery system, I sell my work directly to my customers. I'm just gonna continue to strengthen that process. Make it easier for people to get it.
China gets her own action figure. Safe to say Jerry won't be getting one?
Sucklord: Of all the judges there, she seemed to be the only one that had any compassion for the horror and misery we were all suffering. I mean, guys like Jerry and Bill Powers, although they might have said a couple of things to me that might possibly have been relevant, it's all going on in a vacuum for them as far as I can tell. They don't seem to understand, or at least they're not letting it show, any sort of compassion for any of the people on the bottom at all. I think to them it's all just an intellectual exercise and there's very little human component.
Jerry, in recapping the episode for Vulture, wrote that he really liked your idea for the ripped-from-the-headlines challenge. But you had a change of heart after Simon came in for his evaluation. Do you regret listening?
Sucklord: Simon has been a champion of the Sucklord from the beginning so I was really inclined to listen to him. I don't know if he always necessarily gave me the best advice but I put a lot more value in his advice than anyone else involved in the show. He and Jerry are different people with different tastes, so Simon's telling me what he thinks, he's not necessarily telling me what he thinks Jerry is going to say. At the end of the day, it's my call to decide what to put up there. What I really should have done is say, "F--- it, I'm just going to do what I feel like doing." The fact that I was so willing to just give up on my idea really spoke to the fact that I was just falling apart and didn't know what the hell I was doing at that point.