Grayson Perry is known as ‘a serious character and lovable artist’. Perry has made regular appearances on the art scene and is an art world and media darling, especially in the liberal press. He has been largely accepted into the mainstream as an eccentric ‘national treasure’.
Perry claims he has what he calls an ‘alter ego’ called ‘Claire’ and is often described as dressing as ‘a woman’. Perry has also contradictorily stated however…. ‘it’s not an alter ego, it’s a fetish’.
‘Domestic violence, child abuse, paedophilia and cultural stereotypes’ are some of the troubling themes that the artist has been noted as habitually exploring.
Perry has highlighted such themes in tandem with often dressing in Little Bo-Peep outfits, bonnets, baby doll dresses and vibrant exaggerated make-up. While tackling such subjects as child abuse, the heterosexual middle-aged male artist therefore regularly presents himself in the guise of a grotesque parody of a female child.
Perry also connects his transvestism to ‘a kind of bleed-through into infantilism and humiliation’. In connection with ‘Claire’ he also states ‘she’ is undergoing a bit of ‘a transformation at the moment…. her tastes are getting kinkier’.
An adult/child ‘Claire’ are however not defined or separated.
His approach is both disturbing and misogynistic. Think about it…It is the equivalent of a white artist exploring racism while getting immense personal ‘pleasure’ at being dressed as a ‘golly’ doll.
That Perry is so culturally congratulated for such dodgy imagery, especially in the light of the themes of his work, is evidence of a patriarchal society that values the ‘free speech’ of the white male over the rights and dignity of women and (especially female) children. According to the NSPCC 1 in 20 child are the victims of child abuse, girls being predominately targeted, the perpetrators being overwhelmingly heterosexual white males (Greenfeld, 1997).
Perry is welcomed at many events. He was a guest at the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival (2013). At the Women of the World Festival (2014) he gave a speech on his own views on ‘men’s rights’. Not only does this artist project some very disturbing imagery but he also, as a successful and wealthy white heterosexual male, is actually enabled to take the safe space, time and voice of those who are subjected to discrimination and oppression in the rest of society, such as women, lesbians and gay men.
Perry himself has stated that in ‘the crowded cultural landscape it doesn’t hurt to be known for something different’, acknowledging that his success and celebrity status very much comes down to him putting on a dress.
The emperor’s disturbing new clothes in fact.