James’s work in the exhibition focuses on relationships, moving between lighthearted interactions between aliens and Diné communities to intimate conversations between the artist and those no longer with us. In describing the body of work in the exhibition text, James says, “It’s like something or someone is tapping on your shoulders, to get that feeling that they’re still there with you in a spiritual way.” Capturing glimpses of ancestors and extraterrestrials, James’s work illustrates a moment in time—either real or imagined—with something both there and not there at the same time.
James recounts an encounter in 2009, at home in Ganado, Arizona. He “remembers sitting on his sister’s porch when a sudden stillness settled around him, and he looked up to see a blue and white orb rotating about ten feet above him. It remained for a few seconds before flying back into the sky.” James understood this event to be a visit from a loved one. “I feel like there’s a relationship. Sometimes I wonder who we sing to and pray to. I see it’s to the Holy People, but what if there’s more to who answers what we say?”
In the gallery, A Signal of Becoming a Life Cycle (2023) captures the story of extraterrestrials circling the sky trying to find new places to live and eventually encountering a Diné community. Trying to get in touch with them, the Diné gather to make the signal stronger so these new people can come into their world. Similarly, in Second Night Chants Are Stronger (2023), James explains to me that “aliens were passing through Earth, picked up a signal of people singing in an unfamiliar language, and landed directly into a Diné ceremony. They were welcomed to eat, gathered around the fire to help the Diné sing, and their presence helped the ceremony come to fruition.”