Drawing from coexisting feelings of anxiety and catharsis, Chloe Chiasson ruminates on what was missing from her Southern upbringing by building intimate escapes where queer people feel a sense of safety and belonging.
Here, we ask an artist to frame the essential details behind one of their latest works.
Bio: Chloe Chiasson, 28, Brooklyn (@chloechiasson_)
Title of work: Sunday Confessions.
Where to see it: “Fast Hearts and Slow Towns” at Albertz Benda Gallery (515 W 26th Street, New York) until June 25.
Three words to describe it: Rite of passage.
What was on your mind at the time: The privacy and safety—and often lack thereof—of queer spaces in the South. More specifically, where I’m from and what such a space looked and felt like for me growing up with the religious undertones/comparisons of every setting I found comfort, privacy, and safety in.
Historically and now, the photobooth was and is a safe space for queer people as it allows you to be the subject, the photographer, and the developer, thus eliminating any third-party involvement. Much like a Catholic confessional, though fundamentally different in purpose, the photobooth holds your secrets. This piece serves as a metaphor for the narrow space for queer life in religion-dominated places, structured for secrecy, protection, and escape, with its inhabitants refusing the narrow confines to which they’ve been relegated.
An interesting feature that’s not immediately noticeable: The photo strip that sits in the photo dispenser shows the flash of the photos still being taken, but no people/person in the photos. This was meant to suggest that in the very short amount of time the photobooth was snapping photos (usually 10 seconds or less), the people/person fled quickly.
How it reflects your practice as a whole: Right now, I’m deeply invested in the spaces and places of where I’m from: the South. I’m trying to engage imaginatively and combatively in the remaking of these spaces and places that built me—the values, traditions, and religious upbringing that I’m a product of—but that, as a lesbian, I contradict the destructive parts of. I’m trying to find personal freedom through reconstructing these spaces, both metaphorically and materially. Though I’m critiquing and challenging, I’m also sort of creating a South I didn’t have to leave.
One song that captures its essence: “Shallow Be Thy Game” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.