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Chivas Clem: Shirttail Kin

March 24 - May 1, 2022

After living in NYC for 12 years Chivas Clem moved back to Paris, Texas, his hometown near the border of Oklahoma. His multidisciplinary practice started to focus on documenting his relationship with a group of so called "rednecks" who he discovered by accident in a kind of flophouse/used bookstore near his studio. The images are primarily a gang of young men who live on the edges of society. Drifters, addicts, and felons, they were primarily rough young men living on the edge of society. He began to hire them at the studio and they began to let him photograph them naked, getting stoned, sleeping, bathing. Sensitive, sometimes gentle, but feral and dissolute, they began to form an inexplicable bond with him. His subjects exude a mien of simultaneous corruption and innocence and he imbues this fractiousness with a sensuality and pathos. The small gestures of an arched back or a sun-kissed neckline trace the outline of these precarious bodies. Under the effete exterior, he detects an opaque fragility - fierce and searching. Clem saw in this unexamined subculture a connection to the myths of the rugged masculinity of the "cowboy", now devolved into something more bitter and tumultuous. Portraits and nudes of his models are mixed in with images of broken phones, dirty hands, and wilting magnolias often shot against the backdrop of a decaying victorian estate that has become his makeshift studio. 

Clem has said "I grew up effeminate in this place -a small town in the deep south, and these were the kinds of men that made my childhood miserable. Now they are the only people I relate to, as they are outsiders themselves. Perhaps the twin feelings of desire and fear that gave them so much psychic power in my youth is the origin of this fascination." Clem's bond with his sitters became so strong he did not return to NYC. 

There is a deep south colloquialism for a relationship that supersedes friendship. "Shirttail Kin" is someone you are kin to by affection not by blood. Clem returned to his hometown to discover his new kin- his "Shirttail Kin". These are the pictures he took of them.