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Margaret Evangeline: Too Pure Water

At C. Grimaldis Gallery through Dec. 2

FULLA HOLES: Margaret Evangeline's "Expecting Rain."

By J. Bowers | Posted 11/29/2006

Margaret Evangeline is a one-trick pony--but, luckily, it's a damn good trick. The New Orleans-born self-described "painter" arms herself with revolvers, rifles, and other ballistic weapons, then takes aim and fires at plates of brushed, electro-polished, and otherwise altered stainless steel. She's a startlingly good shot, as evidenced by "Once Upon a Time, America," a video filmed earlier this year and shown on a continuous loop as part of Too Pure Water, an exhibit of eight newish works at the C. Grimaldis Gallery--a joint exhibit with City Paper contributing photographer Christopher Myers. In the five-minute short, Evangeline stands in a leafy forest, endlessly reflected in a virgin mirror-polished steel surface. A cross between Jackson Pollock and Hunter S. Thompson, she raises her rifle, pulls the trigger, and it's impossible not to flinch as her bullet punctures the metal with a thunderous crack. The forest's reflection trembles for a moment between each shot, rippling like water.

It's crucial to see the violent, destructive actions behind Evangeline's creative process--the shiny, futuristic-looking metal canvases left behind after her shooting sessions are undeniably lovely, but it is only when you realize exactly how their mercurial, impossibly fluid-looking surfaces are made that true appreciation sets in. There's an unsettling attraction present in works like "Expecting Rain," a wall-sized pair of 91-by-87-inch mirror-polished plates. Perhaps you approach the surface to examine the bullets' splayed-out, black hole-like points of entry, surprisingly delicate around the edges. Perhaps you vainly step forward to stare at yourself in what, for all intents and purposes, appears to be a full-length mirror. Either way, you're confronted with the image of what you might look like with a hole blasted clean through your chest, leg, or face, not to mention the accompanying distortion, twisting features and limbs beyond comfortable recognition. It's all far less innocent than a fun-house mirror.

Other works--like Evangeline's "Los Lunas" series, which uses burnished steel--do not invite such overt introspection, though it's impossible not to read all of her "paintings" as bullet-pocked futuristic flesh. Here, the focus rests firmly on the holes, creases, and dents created by the gunshot's impact with the metal. Sometimes concave, sometimes convex, these pieces catch and manipulate the gallery's ambient light, illuminating craters and tiny ball-bearing dimples that cast a halolike glow. The holes seem random at first glance--and to some extent, they most certainly are--but their randomness feels meaningful, inviting the creation of personal constellations.

It would be easy to dismiss Evangeline's art as simple sensationalism if the end result of her shooting expeditions wasn't so unexpectedly beautiful. As it stands, her work is an all-too-rare fusion of compelling, performative process and meaningful, aesthetically pleasing product.

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