CHIVAS CLEM l SHIRTTAIL KIN
Oxford House Projects is pleased to represent Shirttail Kin, an on-going photographic series by Chivas Clem. After a decade in New York, Clem returned to his hometown of Paris, Texas near the border of Oklahoma and unexpectedly found a reason to stay. The result is an impressive body of work called Shirttail Kin.
Looking for a place to set up his studio, Clem found a magnificent, decaying 6-bedroom Victorian on the wrong side of town. He soon noticed that the nearby used bookstore was a makeshift flophouse for many so-called “rednecks”— the disparaging, classist yet ever-present name for hyper-masculine young men who live on the edges of Southern life and drive around in jacked-up trucks covered in confederate flags. Transient, but not homeless, they are drifters, addicts and felons—people who exited the "back door" as Truman Capote once described Perry in In Cold Blood. And they were precisely the type of men that made Clem’s childhood miserable.
"As a gay kid living in the deep south, they made me fear for my life.
Ironically, now they are the only people I relate to out here."
“As a gay kid living in the deep the south,” explains Clem, “they made me fear for my life. Ironically, now they are the only people I relate to out here, as they are outsiders themselves.” After some initial trepidation, Clem asked a few men if they’d be willing to pose as models for him. Many agreed. Perhaps because they were curious, but more likely because they could use the money. As trust grew between Clem and his subjects grew, they allowed him to capture them naked, stoned, sleeping, bathing or just doing nothing. Clem’s work captures a shocking tenderness and sensitivity mixed with his subjects feral and dissolute natures. So close did Clem become to some of his models that he even goes to see them in jail—often as their only visitor.
“After a decade of photographing these men,” explains Clem, “they’ve become my ‘Shirttail Kin’—that’s what you call people you’re related to by affection, not blood.”
Chivas Clem (b. 1971, Paris, TX) has had solo exhibitions at Maccarone, New York, Bill Arning, Houston; Erin Clubby Gallery, Dallas; and has been included in numerous group shows. He attended the Whitney Independent Study Program, New York, NY Whitney Independent Study Program. During more than a decade in New York, Clem is known for launching the influential artists space The Fifth International, which championed the work of AaronCurry, Alex Bag, Jonathan Horowitz and others.