Bravo’s weirdest reality competition show returned last night, and we’re confident that Season 2 will be every bit as bizarre as Season 1 — in fact, it may even be crazier. The highlights of this year’s cast include a woman who looks like a punk-rock Mayim Bialik and photographs her own sculptures of viscera, a street artist who’s always talking about how much time he spends in jail, and a rural Arkansas art teacher who (sigh) continued Work of Art‘s great clown-painting tradition. But by far the most fascinating character so far is also the show’s most established artist. “My name is The Sucklord,” is how he introduces himself — and if, like Simon de Pury, you dare to call him by his given name, he’ll correct you.
The Sucklord is a 42-year-old man with a combination mohawk/mullet who describes himself as “an intergalactic hustler and entrepreneur, trading in bootleg action figures, illicit remix records, and dusted internet video.” His specialties lie firmly in the realm of the geek: pink plastic “Gay Empire” Stormtroopers, live-action sci-fi soap opera shot in his Chinatown studio, and even a music project called Star Wars Breakbeats. His work has already been featured everywhere from Wired to io9, and a few weeks ago, the Village Voice ran a lengthy profile on him that was subtitled, “The designer-toy world’s biggest jerkbag thinks you’re an asshole for reading this story.” Even De Pury mentions that he’s both auctioned The Sucklord’s work in the past and purchased some of it for himself.
So, where does his arresting nickname come from? Within the first few minutes of the show, he explains, “The suckiness comes from my self-deprecating, misanthropic side, and the lord, which is my megalomaniacal, self-aggrandizing side, together in one word.” Let it never be said that The Sucklord is arbitrary. Expanding upon his approach, he tells us, “It’s like an Andy Warhol thing. He had soup cans, and I have Stormtroopers.” (That must be the “lord” part talking.)
“I like crappy stuff,” The Sucklord proclaims when the contestants are faced with the challenge of transforming a piece of thrift-store kitsch into an elevated piece of art. He doesn’t think he can improve on the velvet painting of Gandolf that he’s chosen, so he simply remakes it as a sculpture. “Lord of the Rings is sort of a religious text for me,” he says, “because it encompasses the epic journey that life is.”
When his piece inevitably lands him in the bottom three, The Sucklord impresses with his unwillingness to argue that his art has any deeper meaning. “What I essentially accomplished was taking a crappy, two-dimensional version of a stupid wizard and making it into a crappy, three-dimensional version of a stupid wizard,” he tells the judges. Charged with defending the work, he says only, “It looks really cool, and it’s kind of cute.”
Because the episode’s guest judge, photographer Mary Ellen Mark, finds his sculpture endearing — and because one of his competitors doesn’t understand why copying Keith Haring isn’t a viable way to build a personal brand — The Sucklord is safe for now. And thank God for that. We can’t wait to see how his low-art aesthetics clash with the highfalutin pretensions of his competitors next week.