Friday, 7 August 2009

The Transvestite Artist and The Harley Salesman

At a party near The British Museum last night. Someone asked artist Grayson Perry(en homme in white trousers) about the motor bike embroidered on his t-shirt. This prompted him to tell a good story about the US Ambassador's 4th July party last year. I remember him looking deliciously out of place on the crowded lawn of Winfield House in a girl's satin party dress, frilly white socks and white mary janes.

Perry told us, delightedly, that he met the head of Harley Davidson distribution (Europe) who was totally baffled to find himself discussing the merits of their very latest model with this outrageously infantile transvestite. We don't think the Harley man was aware that Grayson Perry wore a similar outfit the night he won the prestigious Turner prize for contemporary art in 2003.

He has said that the art world was more shocked by his pottery (usually demoted to 'craft' ) than by his dressing up.

The pots are rich with imageryfull of stylistic and cultural references. His is a dystopic vision: a kind of obsessive teenage compulsion with the perverse, the unspeakable and the insistent concerns (by his own admission) of an angry working class man who was excited by the idea of subverting night-school pottery classes .

Two Children Born on the Same Day
1996, Earthenware
42 x 30 x 30 cm


G P's textile works are sometimes overlooked. I find these more compelling than the earthenware. Well, his very dressing-up is a textile narrative about gender identity, repression and the right to self-expression. But look closely at the detail of those nursery-style dresses and you will find a perverse iconography.


Grayson Perry, like many transvetite men, is married. His wife Phil is a psychotherapist and his daughter Florence is entirely at ease with her father's alter ego Claire. His 'autobiography' Portrait of The Artist as a Young Girl (written by Wendy Jones) is frank, direct, charming.
Rather like G P here talking to camera. Brilliant.

courtesy Telegraph Online

Back to the Harley Davidson. This suit of leathers was a present from his wife. GP designed it himself, inspired by the Cerne Giant hill carving.


  1. Rosie- Wondered what you have been up to- Now I know, hobnobbing and all that. A look into an artist expressing himself in her own special way. Obviously a walking art experiment himself- in a good way, fascinating to hear him break down his preference in specifics. It makes me want to read this book, I will def. delve into the web library to read more. G.(!)

  2. Oh Rose, What will you come up with next?!?! Loving it...

  3. Thanks Gaye. Meg and Toma for your comments. I was away in my hometown behaving myself with my old sisters, cousins and aunts. Glad you appreciate Grayson Perry. His work his never comfortable but he speaks for alienated people.

  4. I have always been puzzled by this artist. But I cannot help reading about him. He has such joie de vivre!

  5. He writes beautifully too. He had a column in one of our major daily papers, may still have.. For me, the trouble is that the x-dressing artwork is going on rather long perhaps. Maybe it will evolve in a surprising way?
    I really love his adult Claire persona .. particularly the housewife in the pink cardigan cradling his pretty ceramic F16 fighter.

  6. Wow, that's some motorcycle outfit!

    I am not familiar with Grayson Perry, but I love his textiles that you show us. And I like the cartooned ceramic vase.

  7. I think of GP as the man who restored credibility to the Turner Prize, but I also have a deep affinity with Claire.


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