Richard Ansett

Excerpt from MUSE – A Portrait of Grayson Perry (ACC ART Books)

‘Trannies hate sunlight!!’ Grayson screams at me over the roar of the giant DeMille-esque wind machine as I flash a few thousand joules of light into his immaculately made-up FACE. Today, he’s playing the part of a wild, good-hearted country girl, cackling and squealing with delight as the American flag billows. He tosses his head, and the specially commissioned, hugely expensive wig catches the fake breeze in front of a huge, fake, painted sunrise.

Previously, I had sent over the mood boards to Grayson’s people to recreate this personification of the American Dream. I’d also had a dream: Dolly Parton was in Afghanistan. There was a horse and a big American flag and a steam train. She was being carried by troops wearing taupe camo. Mmm. She was in a little star-spangled banner dress. Who is this mysterious, horny, southern belle with a good heart who loves to ride, RIDE ALL NIGHT!? It’s only when dawn breaks that we meet her. She’s a free bird; we both feel it. Ok, so we were playing out a hideous cliche but there’s something about a giant wind machine in a car studio, and a specially commissioned Harley-Davidson, that convinces everyone this is a proper photoshoot with a proper photographer. I’m channelling Annie Leibovitz at ‘Vanity Fair’ — sue me! Grayson is channelling Dolly, I think, with a sprinkling of ‘Girl on a Motorcycle’ and Dennis Hopper. I’m not sure and I don’t care. I just want MORE! He tosses his head back again and again. I’m really shouting at him now ‘YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL! YES! YES!’ My assistant fields some complaints from other studios. Sir Grayson’s new boobs press hard against that adorable country gingham shirt. She’s so fertile, absolutely in her prime. Both of us forget our prostate issues just for a moment. 

Hesitation is not an option. Perry is intolerant of indecision and it inspires me to crush my self-doubt, so I canter to the American right. Camp, after all, is the withering deconstruction of oppressive social norms. She has driven her machine roughshod over the burning bodies of the brave, young, confederate lads on the battlefield and there’s a bloody tinge to the sunrise. She’s a Republican and you know it — they’re more fun. We hit the sweet spot. Grayson knows it, I know it, I’m there, I think he’s there but there’s no time for a post-coital cuddle. I don’t feel cheap; it was beautiful.