Joey Garfield vs The Sucklord

Joey Garfield vs The Sucklord
February 24, 2015 Joey Garfield

The Sucklord is to toy making what DJing is to Hip Hop. He remixes all kinds of toy figures into a new reality from a grab bag of action figures and collectables that have long been lost somewhere in the back of our collective memory and/or box in mom’s basement. He is making a limited edition Wizard series for the Ghostrobot pop up shop in retribution for not championing his stint on the reality show Work Of Art.

So we need to come up with a figure for this pop up shop at Ghostrobot. How do you start to think about it? What do you want to make?

I have an idea I don’t know if its particularly relevant to the pop up shop per se but I’ve been wanting to do this one thing for a long time. The thing that makes it possible to do arrived recently.

What kind of thing?

Well when I was on the Work Of Art TV show. I made a lot of bad stuff that I wasn’t particularly proud of and in hindsight I realized what I should have done and I have always meant to touch back on that stuff when the moment arrived. One of the things I was regretting was that first piece I did, the Gandalf piece from the first episode. It was a great challenge. They took us to this art gallery full of all this kitschy paintings and the assignment was to take one of these awful pieces of schlock art that you would find in a Goodwill and transform it into a real piece of art. And there was this black velvet painting of Gandalf with a carved leaf frame hanging on the wall and I was like “That’s the one”. Everyone else looked at it and thought “Eh, its just some painting of a cheesy wizard.” But it was specifically an interpretation of that 1978 (Frank) Frazetta painting of Gandalf holding the sword that was the movie poster for the Ralph Bakshi Lord Of The Rings movie.

Oh I might have taken that even if it wasn’t a challenge.

Yeah but of all the things in that room to pick that was clearly the one that spoke the most to my milieu so it was perfect.

You have a milieu?

Well I’m dealing in the realm of Sci-fi, fantasy and geek dome. Those are subjects I tend to play in. I borrow liberally from Star Wars and Lord Of The Rings and things like that. That Gandalf related the most to what I am about.

The problem was that it was a fucking gorgeous object and didn’t need improving. That was my mistake. Instead of just making a cool Three and Three quarter blister carded Gandalf figure I made this big lumpy sculpture and set it on this shelf it just looked…it was just too big of a project and I fucked it up and it looked like shit. Like it was something I might have made when I was twelve years old. I only had a day to work on it. I handed in something really crappy and have always felt embarrassed about it. If I put it in a blister pack like I do with everything it would have been the perfect way to open.

I get boxes of toys sent to me in the mail often from people who can’t afford my stuff but offer a box of toys from their attic in exchange for a piece of art. I always except because I always need that shit. Recently a couple of boxes showed up from a kid in jersey and inside it was a three and three quarter inch Gandalf figure!

Perfect.

Yeah. So not only can I revisit the piece I did in the show but also I want to launch a whole Wizard series.

Sweet! Did you know that our neighbor next to Ghostrobot is that gamer store Twelve Sided Store? They host D&D and Magic the gathering games. And they are coming to the screening party and are going to Dungeon master some games.

Oh that sounds awesome. So making wizards would be perfect. It was just a coincidence that this happened to catch on at the moment. I can make that wizard and some other weird exclusive wizards because now that I have the body I can make the Gandalf and all kinds of shit.

What about making a Cheesy wizard like you said.

A Cheech wizard? 

No a Cheesy. You mentioned everyone thought that Gandalf painting was just some Cheesy Wizard art so why not make like one that’s made of Cheese. 

I don’t like that idea.

Come on its great! It can be an all yellow wizard or Swiss with holes in it. Your figures have holes in them anyways.

(Pause) I’ll think about it.

That’s all I got. That’s my best idea.

It’s too literalistic a cheesy wizard and he is made out of cheese. Get it?

It’s too on the nose. Ok… It could be subliminal like pizza.

If you want to throw ideas at me go ahead it doesn’t mean I am going to do all of them. I may warm up to it later.

Ok well a Cheesy Wizard is yours for the taking. I think making wizards is perfect. So what makes a wizard a wizard and what’s the difference between them and warlocks?

Ummmm. I don’t know if there is much of a difference. I think a Warlock is a male witch? So whatever the difference between witches and wizards are I guess

Wizards can generally assume to be good. If you were a bad wizard you would be a sorcerer. A warlock is somewhere on the good and evil scale between a wizard and a sorcerer. If you would put it on an alignment chart in D&D I would say most wizards would tend to be lawful good or neutral good and a Warlock is a true neutral and a Sorcerer is lawful evil or something like that. That’s just one assessment but I was never really a wizard guy I was more into the fighters when I played D&D I liked the sword swinging aspect of it. I did always like Gandalf. And I like the aesthetic of the figure they made of him off of the Bakshi film its chunky like almost a chess piece with a good flat bottom. They stood cool. I appreciate the interpretation of soft fabric with how they made his robe. It will look cool with different types of resin and plastic. You can make pearlescent or green glittery ones because the lines can really showcase the resin. That stuff looks better on a figure with a little more weight to them.

And that would be more magical looking.

Yeah it is magical and an interesting surface to play with. I like that wizards, like cowboys, are this archetype that comes with a lot of associations and you can assign anything to it. They are fun to fuck around with and mix and match.

So talk about the show you were on Work Of Art.

It was the second season of it and it was your typical Bravo style reality competition show, same format as Top Chef and Project Runway. They have a bunch of aspiring whatever’s who, every episode, are given a crazy deadline to make something in response to a challenge. There is a mentor figure who in this case was Simon de Pury the famous auctioneer and he would come around and give advice on our project and then we’d finish and there would be a gallery show with people looking at it. The judges, who were all art critics like Jerry Saltz was one of them, would decide who won and who deserved to be kicked off the show. That was basically it. I lasted six out of ten episodes. I ironically failed on the graffiti challenge and was sent home by non other than Lee Quinones. It was devastating. I was a gigantic public failure.

wizards_lineup_1000x441

Well you were good TV 

That’s why I want to retire from the art business and do TV full time

Then you can embarrass yourself on a weekly basis

Yeah I am very good at that and apparently people like to watch it.

People were gunning for you and cheering you as the underdog

I was up for elimination on four of the six episodes. It got to me. I stumbled and couldn’t recover because the schedule was punishing. I started off on the wrong foot and the second and third episode I made my best stuff or at least was not ashamed of. But wasn’t acknowledged really. The fifth episode I screwed up because it involved kids and I lost my edge and got soft and made a junky piece. The judges especially in particular Jerry Saltz admitted he didn’t like me and wanted me to fail. He nailed me real hard and told me I can’t fuck with Star Wars anymore because I used some before and he hated it. He actually said “If you use Star Wars again I will get medieval on your ass. You will be eliminated from this show if I see any of it anywhere.” That was when I made a crucial decision that ultimately was my failure. I said “OK” instead of saying “Fuck you Star wars is an important part of my frame of reference and informs my work and maybe this particular application of Star Wars is not very good but this is what my shit is about.” But like any artist who deals in the realm of appropriation at some point is going to have that conversation with himself where he asks, “What would I do if I wasn’t building my work upon someone else’s creations. Would I be a good artist if I just made things completely from scratch?” So I decided I would show the judges that I wasn’t afraid to go out of my comfort zone and that there is more to me than just ripping off Star Wars. Unfortunately trying to make a complete turn around in your whole style in the course of one evening is impossible especially if you are tired and hung-over. After a brutal night of someone getting sent home we would be up til 2:30 and they would wake us up at 5:30 A.M. After a couple of days of that I was just dead on my feet. We were lurching from one challenge to the next without anytime to process your last failure so I was on the bottom again and again. By the time we got to the sixth episode I wasn’t in the best frame of mind and made something weak in the Graffiti challenge. I completely abdicated my voice and style and made something incredibly wack and I deserve to go home. Lee could only judge me on that one piece and I fucked it up. I had a line of bullshit to defend why I thought it was good but what I failed to notice was that the girl I was working with put some of the work over somebody’s tag that was already up on the wall!

Oooooh that’s some never forgive action.

The first thing Lee said in his critique was “Why’d you go over that tag?” I didn’t even realize we had done it. But after that everything just crumbled and my silver tongue turned to lead. I botched my defense and they sent me home.

I mean whatever, at the end of the day it wasn’t anywhere nearly as bad as I was afraid it would be. I thought I was going to be run out of the Lower East Side on my ass. But instead people were like “Nah who cares you were funny…you fucked up big deal.” I thought my rep was destroyed it made me paranoid. Going through an experience like that is really intense and it affected me. Nobody likes to put out bad work especially in front of people on television so it doesn’t eat me up or rule me but its in the back of my mind. There are a lot of things in the world that remind me of it so every once in a while I look back and think “Maybe I should have done this or that” Its just part of the mix at this point.

Didn’t we randomly run into Jerry Saltz later and he changed his mind about you?

Exactly! That was the day you and I were shooting and we only had that brief conversation and I haven’t had the chance to follow up. We should have filmed it but it happened so quick it didn’t occur to me. I don’t know exactly what he meant by that but I think there is a story there somewhere. I want to reach out to him on my podcast and hash it out.

So wait all I can remember is we were crossing the street and he was driving off in his vintage car and you were standing in the street with one of your helmets on.

He was pointing at me and pointing. I didn’t realize who it was and he was like “Its you It’s you. He’s good! He’s good!”

And I was like “What do you mean?”

And he said, “I was wrong you’re good.”

Maybe he was trying to tell that to me because we had the camera?

It happened so fast I didn’t get a chance to ask Jerry what the epiphany was or if it was bullshit or what he meant by that. I want to capture that at some point.

Right. Confront the truth.

Yeah it’s interesting how being on that show has this constant ripple effect. Things keep getting built on top of it. It is still a living part of my life these many years later.

Ripple effects should be a power one of the wizards has.

Exactly. Buts its not a linear ripple its where everything happens like a spherical ripple its not flat it radiates from an orb in three dimensions. Other people experience ripple effects as flat.

That’s very wizard-y of you to think something like that.

I fucken just made that up. Maybe I am a wizard after all. I never thought of myself as that.