Yesterday, I had a phoner with The Sucklord. It’s basically a phone interview tapped by a representative from Bravo to make sure plotlines stay unspoiled. Cynthia Arntzen did the honors and is probably now wondering why she went to college to eavesdrop on an artist talking about toys with a blogger. The Sucklord and I hope this is just the beginning of weekly episode chats. Work of Art airs tonight on Bravo. Tune in!
JB: Hey man, it’s Jeremy. How are you?
THE SUCKLORD: What’s up guy? I’m good. You going to New York Comic-Con?
JB: I am not.
THE SUCKLORD: I’m doing Art Hustle Cards right now. I just asked [Bravo’s agency] about the videochat, and they said no go. I think that’s wack. I’m still down to talk weekly, but it has to be like this. Are you able to record this yourself J?
THE SUCKLORD: Yeah well then I guess you’re gonna be a transcribing motherfucker! I’ll try to be succinct.
JB: So why’d you decide to audition for Work of Art?
THE SUCKLORD: Fortune and glory, kid! Fortune and glory.
JB: On what scale?
THE SUCKLORD: As a platform to promote the Suckadelic worldview.
JB: What was the audition process like?
THE SUCKLORD: Cynthia, stop me if I’m going too far. I went to the open call at the Brooklyn Museum and stood there with 5000 other people, and then I went through a series of smaller interviews with more and more important people until finally there was a final meeting in LA. I walked outta there and they said: “we’ll call you.” A little while later they called me and were like “You wanna be on the show?” And I said “Yeah I wanna be on the show, why the fuck do you think I went through all this shit?” That was it.
I kinda knew I was gonna get on because I was on TV before and apparently I was good on TV. Have you seen that Can’t Get a Date shit I did a couple years ago? I felt prepared to do another show after that. I know how to audition I guess.
JB: Do you feel comfortable in front of the camera?
THE SUCKLORD: Me? Yeah it’s natural for me to do this. I have a lot to say. So I need a place to say it. You’ve seen what I do at Comic-Con. I’m a fuckin’ exhibitionist. I’m a showman. The actual making of my art is better than the actual art. Watching me make it is better than what comes out.
JB: Have you seen any of the footage from Work of Art yet?
THE SUCKLORD: I haven’t seen anything you haven’t seen. Looks good. Why, what do you think?
JB: I wasn’t too stoked on it last season. I equate it kind of like to The Bachelor where you pluck various people out of obscurity and think 20 people are gonna suddenly find love at random. Or in your case, like they’re gonna find the next great artist out of 14 people. So I’m cynical, but I’m watching because of you. I’m curious to see what you do with this medium.
THE SUCKLORD: Right. Well, I wouldn’t put this in the same category as The Bachelor. It’s what you would call a “real reality” show. It’s not like a bullshit reality show. They take people that are actually great artists, and they put them in difficult situations to try to get the best out of them. Sure the situation increases the drama factor and people get emotional and it’s not really normal life, but what happens is real you know?
Is it necessarily true that the one who wins is the next great artist and will go on to do big things and everyone else is a nobody? I mean no, it’s a game. Somebody has to win. Thirteen people have to lose. But it is very sincere as far as art goes; it’s not like fake art. You’ve got big guys up there, big dogs like [Jerry] Saltz and [Simon] de Pury running this shit, it’s not like some hacks. It’s real and the challenges are interesting. It’s legit. I think some creative types are more suited to it than other people. You’ll have to see who is and isn’t. I think it’s pretty official. It’s fascinating.
JB: I’m totally fascinated by reality TV which leads into my next question: Last season on Work of Art, what I thought was interesting (especially knowing how regulated and contracted you guys are), was that a lot of the contestants would take to the blogs and the forums and twitter right after the episode aired and say, “no no no this is what really happened” and “the editors made it look like this.”
THE SUCKLORD: Oh really? We’re not supposed to say that kinda stuff.
JB: I’m thinking of Jaclyn Santos…
THE SUCKLORD: Apparently, I think she got into trouble for that shit. I dunno. Probably none of what we’re talking about right now is publishable.
JB: I’ll wait til Cynthia breaks in and lets me know…Do you have any concerns knowing that reality TV is a combination of what you do, what the camera picks up, what’s edited and what the producers want…are you at all concerned about how you will be portrayed?
THE SUCKLORD: No, I’m not. I know what you see is gonna be what it is. I don’t believe that they can make you look like an asshole. People say: “Don’t make me look like an asshole,” and my answer to that is, well, “Don’t be an asshole in front of the camera, and then they got nothing to work with.”
The people that created and produced the show are sincere, and they believe in this and they’re not “out to get people” or make them look like dicks. I did what I did. And it was all real. And there’s nothing they could do to change it or make it into something it’s not. I’m not worried about what the producers did. I might be a little worried about what I did to myself. You’ll have to watch and see.
JB: Do you think that applies to you because of your “performance art” or “character,” but doesn’t apply to other people on there or is it straight across the board that what you see is what you get?
THE SUCKLORD: I think so. I can’t speak for anybody else, but I’ve done this kind of shit before. I’ve been interviewed a million times, and I’ve been on TV before and I’ve never looked at anything I did before and thought, “Hey that’s not really what happened!” It was always accurate. So I trust it’s gonna be fine.
JB: Well that’s awesome because I feel like if I even get a one-sentence quote on a blog, I immediately think it’s awful. You and me are like polar opposites.
THE SUCKLORD: Oh so you’re like a self-depricating Jew, right?
JB: Dude are you Jewish, or do you just live in NY?
THE SUCKLORD: Well everyone that lives in New York is Jewish in some capacity, right? I’m not ethnically or religiously Jewish, but I’ve been living around Jewish people my whole life. I’ve been to Bar Mitzvahs. I’ve been to fucking mad Hannukahs and Passovers. I know why This Night is different from every other night.
JB: Well Happy New Year then brother.
THE SUCKLORD: Yeah. Mazel Tov.
JB: Simon De Pury’s involvement in Work of Art is awesome because he’s done a lot of toy art auctions and shown esteem for the medium before.
THE SUCKLORD: I’ve had shit in Phillips before.
JB: Do you have stuff in Christie’s and Phillips?
THE SUCKLORD: And Freemans. That’s where they did the Vader Show. I was in three Christie’s auctions and two or three Phillips auctions since 2008.
JB: Do you think this got you taken more seriously as an artist?
THE SUCKLORD: I don’t know. I’m not sure if people take me seriously. I don’t know if I should be taken seriously. Maybe it does. Or maybe it makes people take those places less seriously.
JB: It’s possible that some people think that. Not me, but you know, some people.
THE SUCKLORD: It is possible. I really don’t give a shit. Let them think it.
JB: What are some of the things you do actually give a shit about?
THE SUCKLORD: Well I actually give a shit about everything, to be honest with you. I give a shit about my friends. I give a shit about whether the fucking cape on this stupid He-Man Sucklord figure looks right. I give a fuck about human suffering. I give a fuck about injustice I suppose. I also give a fuck about my own happiness and well-being and gratification. I give a fuck about certain people. I do give a fuck about what people in this toy game think about me, believe it or not. I’m sorry if that disappoints people.
JB: Who’s this Schmucklord character?
THE SUCKLORD: I guess it’s an imposter, I suppose. Or somebody that’s trying to make a wacky attack of the Sucklord and is putting out fake Sucklord shit.
JB: Would you buy any of it? What do you think of it?
THE SUCKLORD: If they feel like impersonating the Sucklord is how they want to express themselves, well let ’em do it. If he’s like “I’m gonna bootleg every bootleg you’ve ever made,” I’m like good luck guy, you’ll never catch me. This happens a lot. Every once in a while, someone will put out something that looks like something I did or was inspired by something I did and then send it to me, like “I’m gonna start doing your shit, is it OK?” And I’m like yeah sure go ahead, and then you never hear from them again because they realize that slinging resin on the reg is fucking hell on earth and you have to be some kind of fucked up masochist to really be able to do this. I bring people in here sometimes to help me do my stuff and they fold in like 3 hours. They just can’t stand the constant sanding and drilling and the dirt and the crap. My girlfriend can hang though. She does it all the time. Let ’em try. Let’s see what he does.
JB: I was actually curious to know if it’s you.
THE SUCKLORD: No, do you think I have time to do that? Being Sucklord is a full-time + gig. I can’t be a fake Sucklord too. So I figure why not, let some other jerkoff run around and do that because all it does is bring more attention to me. There should be legions of these people out there. There may be at some point.
JB: It’s true. There could be. Let’s talk about your girlfriend real quick.
THE SUCKLORD: Let’s not.
JB: How did you meet her?
THE SUCKLORD: I met her at DesignerCon last year.
JB: So she’s a toy fan…maybe?
THE SUCKLORD: No, she’s a friend of Marka27. He had a booth at DCON, and he needed somebody to work it because he wasn’t going. She lived in LA at the time, so he had her work it. They were like “you should meet this girl, Samantha, you guys would be perfect together,” and I wound up talking to her and doing a little signing at the booth, and it was just magic from the beginning. And she’s still here now. She moved to New York. She’s an official Suckadelic girl now.
JB: That’s rad, dude. Congratulations!
THE SUCKLORD: Yeah, did you see her dirty resin whore tweet she put up yesterday?
JB: No I must have missed that…
THE SUCKLORD: She’s a dirty resin whore. [Female laughter can be heard in the background.] She’s up in here sanding figures, chopping resin, taping and painting and sucking my dick in between. It’s a pretty sweet deal.
JB: What’s her handle? I’ll follow her. Is it @dirtyresinwhore?
THE SUCKLORD: No, it’s @needleknocker, and she’s a villain now. She goes by Roxy Sunblazer in the Suckadelic Universe.
JB: Do you have to chill out on the other Suckadelic girls at this point?
THE SUCKLORD: Ah, you know there’s ways to navigate that. The other Suckadelic girls are just partners, muses, props or whatever. Compatriots, co-conspirators, but only Roxy gets to suck penis.
JB: Changing topics, you and me both have no qualms about talking about smoking pot.
THE SUCKLORD: Right.
JB: I’m curious about the contract…how do you get access when you’re on a reality TV show?
THE SUCKLORD: I don’t know if I’m allowed to answer that.
THE SUCKLORD: There’s no drugs allowed so I didn’t do any drugs.
JB: Fair enough. Be that as it may, can you give us any tips on how to can get along with diverse groups of people in close quarters?
THE SUCKLORD: Well, I mean I don’t use marijuana to get along with people. If anything, it makes me more antisocial. When you see me at DCON or I’m out there doing my shit, I’m usually not high. I’ll drink a little bit, but I don’t really smoke in social situations. I like to smoke when I’m working. It keeps me in the chair for longer periods of time.
Getting along with diverse groups of people is just a skill you have to develop by being in the world and dealing with people in general. You have to figure out when people are being assholes and you need something from them what they want and what they’re after and try to give it to them and not put your own ego in the way and say like ‘oh this person isn’t behaving the way I think they should, let me try to make some sort of moral issue out of it,’ and withhold or try to punish. Work together. You gotta compromise sometimes.
JB: Where do you think this wisdom comes from?
THE SUCKLORD: I’m 42 years old.
JB: Which makes you the oldest contestant on the show.
THE SUCKLORD: I think so. I’ve been putting myself into the world forever. And I’ve suffered horrible failures and defeats. I’ve embarrassed myself and I’ve been rejected and I’ve been on the outs for a long time. I mean, I lived in my mom’s house until I was 36. When you’re not getting what you want out of life, you gotta really look at yourself and figure out why and be really honest what your problem is and at the same time you gotta be compassionate with yourself and forgive yourself and fucking figure it out.
JB: What was that turning point you experienced around age 36?
THE SUCKLORD: Oh I inherited some money, and I was able to get the fuck out. I inherited some money when I was like 35, not much, 7 grand, and that allowed me to get a studio and start making the bootlegs in 2005. When I started putting out the bootlegs, that’s when I started earning money off of my artwork, and that was the most steady money I’d ever made. It was great because it wasn’t like jobs where you gotta go get a job; you just make it yourself. So I just worked my ass off, and fortunately Dov [Kelemer] came out of the blue at the right moment and started buying it off me and it just allowed me to make money. A year later I was able to afford rent and an apartment.
JB: What do you say to people who are thinking things like ‘this guy makes Star Wars bootleg toys, how’s he going to do on a realist painting or sculpture or photography challenge’?
THE SUCKLORD: I say just watch the show and see how he does. Am I supposed to say that poeple who make toys are real artists too, and you should respect me because I make toys and it counts as art too? I mean is that what I should say? Is that what you mean?
JB: You should just say whatever you mean.
THE SUCKLORD: People who want to know how I’m gonna do should just watch. I would like to ask you a question if you don’t mind.
THE SUCKLORD: Yeah. I want you to just get philosophical here. What does it mean for the toy world if I’m on the show, and what would my success or failure mean for the toy scene? And is it my responsibility to elevate the toy world by doing this?
JB: Yes, it’s definitely all resting on your shoulders right now… I think if you were to do badly, it would make no difference because anybody who doubted you would just be like “that guy was just a toymaker anyway.” Nothing would change. However, if you did well or even just the mere fact that you’ve been included does kind of elevate the medium.
I know your medium is different from Marka27’s medium and anybody else’s medium. But what I’m personally getting a kick out of is seeing your name on the NY art critic blogs. These were people I used to send messages, like maybe I’d discover something cool in the scene, and I’d be like ‘hey you should check this out’. And nobody cared. But they’re starting to care now.
THE SUCKLORD: Do you really need them to care? I mean, we’ve been fine without those fucks. Do we need them now?
JB: I don’t know if you need them because you seem like you’ve got the $7K inheritance and the Dov benefactory, but I could use some more people to boost my toy writing business. I think some people could use the attention and some people are OK as is. Me? I could use some support.
THE SUCKLORD: Well I’m gonna do the best to see that that happens.
JB: Thanks man. I’m dedicated.
THE SUCKLORD: You’re a smart guy. You were the first guy to actually have the balls to say something negative about a piece of toy art. I think you are the godfather of this new hater movement in the toy world. Now you’ve got the guys like Toypinionated and Toy Grudge and guys like that. And I mean, you were right, for a minute there, everybody was tiptoeing around the fact that some of this shit is bad. And we shouldn’t be afraid to say it or talk about it or discuss it or critique it. And then you got some shit for that.
THE SUCKLORD: Initially, but now look it’s starting to happen more. Now it’s weird… you’ve got guys dedicated exclusively to hating, and I don’t know if that’s helpful either. But I think it’s important for any sort of art movement to have spirited discussions where people don’t always agree. We’re a bunch of kids playing with toys and everybody wants to be nice to each other even when shit is not that great.
JB: I think you and I have some things in common, maybe it’s our Jewish background. I just feel like honesty is the way to go, and hopefully more than hate, I kinda put out honesty. And most people come back with respect.
THE SUCKLORD: Other people misconstrue it as hating. People don’t understand the distinction between criticism and critique. Criticism is just negative feedback and critique is constructive negative feedback. Criticism is like “you suck, that’s bad” and critique is like “this sucks, it’s bad, and this is what you could do to make it better”. Some people get that. You get that. Other people don’t. And that’s what’s called hating. What else, you got more?
JB: How’s our time Cynthia? I know it’s getting on dinner time on the east coast…
THE SUCKLORD: No not really. I’m just busting ass. You gotta see these new fucking Sucklords I’m doing. Man, I’m doing He-Man shit now.
JB: Send me some pictures.
THE SUCKLORD: They’re not done. I’ll get ’em up as soon as possible. I don’t want to waste Cynthia’s time either. Her eyes must be rolling back in her head.
JB: Sorry Cynthia, I’ve just got a couple more.
CA: [laughter] It’s totally fine.
JB: I’ve just got a couple more. Is it necessary to be highly knowledgable about Star Wars to understand your art?
THE SUCKLORD: The short answer is no. It’s an interesting question. Highly knowledgable? Definitely not. The work is transformed enough, it’s not really about Star Wars anymore. To some degree it is, but I always saw it more as I’m taking the language of Star Wars and using it to say new things that aren’t about Star Wars. You can have a peripheral knowledge of Star Wars to understand the Gay Empire figure, you don’t even need to know that it’s called a Storm Trooper to really get it.
It’s hard to answer the question because the people that will like this work are the people that are from my generation and my demographic, and we all know Star Wars whether we wanted to or not. Star Wars is so ingrained in our generation’s worldview. It’s permeated the culture to such a degree that it’s impossible to separate it out of anything. It’s more complicated than just knowing Star Wars because Star Wars doesn’t exist in a vacuum.
JB: The extension of that is you bring in these pop culture and political elements to your pieces so it’s Star Wars plus that, and I think we saw that with the Gay Storm Troopers. I guess I was gonna ask you…while you were shooting this show, a lot of bad shit happened in the world. Do you have any new causes you might be spoofing or parodying or actionfigurizing?
THE SUCKLORD: I have a gay marriage figure coming out. I’m gonna watch what happens to me on TV, and that’s probably gonna inspire some sort of self-reflection in the art work. I’m not thinking about the world right now I’m kinda in my own head, and it’s gonna probably be pretty consuming while it lasts. I mean, I’m definitely into that Occupy Wall Street shit. I’d like to find some way to interface with that. I just don’t know yet. I’m not thinking about those things at the moment. I’m thinking about myself.
JB: If you win or won the Work of Art prize, what would you do with the money?
THE SUCKLORD: I’d just upgrade my business. I’d get a new computer. I’d get a bigger studio. I’d hire a couple people to help me and I’d just fucking shit product. I would probably just sit on the money and pay rent on a bigger space, preferably with a storefront. I need a bigger production room, maybe 2-3 times the size of what I have now. I’d like another office area for computers, video editing, shit like that, maybe even a music studio if I was really lucky, and then a small as fuck little showroom/retail environment.
JB: Oh a gallery/retail space would be cool.
THE SUCKLORD: Yeah, it’d be great.
JB: What do you think will be the biggest surprise for those of us who know you from the toy art scene when we tune into Work of Art on Wednesday?
THE SUCKLORD: I don’t know if I can tell you anything without being specific, but I’ll tell you that maybe The Sucklord is a person who is more complicated than you think. Or not. Less complicated. I dunno. You tell me.
JB: I will. Hopefully we can keep doing this. Last one: If you weren’t doing toy art, what would you be doing?
THE SUCKLORD: Pornos.
JB: Acting or directing?
THE SUCKLORD: Directing. Writing or directing. And producing. I dunno. We’ll see. I still may get to that eventually.
JB: OK so the show starts tomorrow night 9PM EST and 9PM PST. And it runs for an hour. And it will be a weekly extravaganza.
THE SUCKLORD: For some.
JB: OK, well we’ll stay in touch! Good luck dude!