[Originally published in Visual Art Source}
James Evans’ photography, now on show at Afterimage, is work emerging from someone working in a small Texas town situated forty miles from Big Bend National Park, but it’s anything but provencial. His images exert an unexpected torque that makes it clear he’s definitely not producing mere “pretty pictures.” For instance, Wedding Day Panoramic is a linear landscape composed of three distinct striations: reddish, dusty ground; a sky so deeply penetrated by a shade of bluish aqua that it seemingly becomes an aperture exposing another realm; and a thoroughly ominous storm cloud that exudes almost Biblical import — especially since a rainbow punctuates the image with a long, broad arc. Wedding Day Panoramic is thoroughly “Western” — but there’s plenty more at work. It’s enigmatic and, surprisingly, quite strange in ways that lob it into a realm far beyond mere documentation or a desire to display “real” landscapes. It’s too unnerving and too well done to be a slick postcard image of a world that you might mistakenly think you already know.
This seems all the more plausible when you realize that Evans’ most interesting work moves along the margins of a thoroughly surreal sensibility. Much of it, in fact, will rock you back on your heels. Don’t Let Us Get Sick is a case in point. It depicts a thorny segment of dried flora that floats against a cloudy background. It’s spiny and rough and emanates a “prick-you-until-you-bleed” sensibility. It’s unnerving and riveting. Hawk, too, is equally unsettling. The image is framed to show a bird of prey exiting the upper-right edge of the photograph with its legs oddly dangling toward a fence post and sagging wire. There’s something about the shape of the flapping wings and taloned feet that’s chill inducing. This is “Lonesome Dove” with a dose of Hitchcock thrown in for good measure. “Good” is the operative term.