Bayete

Did choosing a headline about Sister Act do him in? Or was it Simon's words of encouragement that led him down the wrong path? Perhaps, as judge Jerry Saltz suspects, exhaustion became a factor. Work of Art's Bayeté Ross Smith says the bottom line is he was sent home because his golden doorway just wasn't very good. TVGuide.com spoke with the 34-year-old multimedia artist, photographer and arts educator about what went wrong during this week's "Ripped from the Headlines" challenge, what the doors were supposed to say, and calling The Sucklord Sucklord:

You didn't seem surprised to be eliminated in Wednesday's episode. Why?
Bayeté Ross Smith:
The piece that I made, I don't think was a very good piece. I was disappointed in myself for not figuring out a better way of conveying the idea, and crafting the idea into a good art piece. I prided myself on using this competition as a means to experiment... but I got myself in a situation where I was working with new materials and an idea I couldn't quite pull together. Well, not "quite" -- I couldn't pull it together at all.

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What was the idea you were trying to convey with the doors and the headline you choose ("Different Church, More Sequins"):
Smith:
I've always been fascinated with the spectacle and the pageantry of organized religion, like how they can suck people in through spectacle. That's what grabbed me [about the headline, which was for a review for Broadway's Sister Act musical]. There's this play about this movie about these nuns and it's another commodification of religion.

Unlike with some of your competitors, Simon de Pury seemed to like where you were going with the doors. Do you think that threw you?
Smith:
Well, no. He did encourage me to go with the idea, but it's a pretty unusual scenario to be creating art in. It's hyper-intense and the timing is short and you're on reality TV.

Given more time, what would you have done differently with the doors?
Smith:
It's a tough question to answer. If we all had more time, everything would be completely different! But if I had more time, I guess I would've been able to figure out the paint drying, printing the crosses bigger, I probably would have done something more creative with the color of the doors and even how I hung them... You'd do so many things differently if you had more time. But not having a ton of time is also the fun and pain of the game.

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Jerry blogged that you were a "true artist," but suspected you might have been exhausted by that point in the competition. True?
Smith:
I think it's something that exists in reality TV scenarios. I'm not making excuses, but what you're dealing with is the competition, being in an environment that's unusual, and being in a production and dealing with a production schedule. Fatigue can sneak up on you and you might not even realize it. I think it's a fair assessment.

Did anyone but Simone question calling The Sucklord Sucklord?
Smith:
That's the thing about reality TV -- it's an unusual situation, so you just go with it. Sucklord? OK! I asked him, "Am I supposed to address you as The Sucklord?" He was like, "Nah, when you're talking to me you just call me Sucklord." I thought, this is kind of fun; this is kind of a gas! It's a great character. I mean, Sarah Jessica Parker called him Sucklord! He's a really good guy actually.

What was your favorite challenge? I really liked the stop-motion animation you made in Week 4?
Smith:
That was my favorite. The kids challenge relates to one of my goals as an artist, which is to create work that is a meaningful and compelling and insightful part of everyday life. When I make my work, my goal is to make things that can function from a "high-art" standpoint, but also be the types of things that everyday people can relate to in the context of their everyday lives... I think a lot of times artists wonder, if I'm doing a show for an art gallery or a museum, to what extent is that relevant to the world at large?

Who is the strongest competitor?
I thought Leon was going to be really hard to beat. He was one of the artists I was most impressed with, not because he was better than the rest of us, but because his style and aesthetic and the way he worked was really captivating. I thought he would go really far in the competition, so you can't really say... I think it's anyone's game.

Check out Smith's current art projects Question Bridge and Got the Power. Work of Art airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on Bravo.