5 Spot | Artist Kristin Abraham & Musician Alfonso Llamas | 5 Spot | Salt Lake City Weekly
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5 Spot | Artist Kristin Abraham & Musician Alfonso Llamas


In 2006, artist Kristin Abraham and musician Alfonso Llamas sold their belongings, packed up their Honda Element and hit the road. Traveling for one year, they spent a week in each state, where Abraham would paint and Llamas would record music and videotape a documentary, capturing their impressions of each state. Their 50-state collection The Nomadic Project is now itself on the road, appearing locally at UTah Artist Hands (61 W. 100 South, 355-0206, UTahands.com), through the month of June.

So is it fair to say The Nomadic Project is a collection of musical postcards?
Unlike a postcard, most of the paintings and songs are quite ambiguous. The goal was to force the viewer to see beyond the obvious representation of each state to pique their curiosity.

How did you decide to undertake such an ambitious project?
On a game of Skip-bo! For three years, we talked about using our art to connect the country but never had the courage. One night, Kristin said, “If I win this game, we set a departure date." Needless to say, she won.

Which state was the biggest surprise to you?
New Mexico. We envisioned it as hot and dry, yet drove into the state during a blizzard and had to wait out the storm at a gas station (which thankfully had a Laundromat inside).

Which state was hardest to express artistically?
The biggest challenge was always choosing what not to paint. We packed so much inspiration into such a short time that it was overwhelming to narrow it down to one subject. That is why there is so much symbolism hidden within each piece, i.e., Nevada, Arizona, Alaska, Maryland.

What was your immediate response to Utah?
Overpopulation, my ass!

As you traveled, you asked an art gallery or museum in each state to hang one of your paintings inspired by a neighboring state. For 10 days in late December 2006, all 50 states were exhibiting one of Abraham’s paintings. What was that moment like?
We chose Hawaii for our last state as a reward to celebrate our accomplishment. We were hit with a lot of interviews at this time—I guess people finally believed we would finish! We felt the connection in knowing every state in the nation was participating in something built from our own blood, sweat and tears.

What was the biggest challenge living on the road for one year?
Paying for gas. Living on the road is a lot of fun; living on the road with a slim budget is a challenge.

Was it a happy year for you as a couple?
It was extremely happy but extremely challenging! When you are working and living in a car with your spouse, you are forced to work together (through good times and bad).

What conclusions did you draw from traveling the country?
Everyone is dealing with the same basic issues, despite their accent, religion or political party. And one thing we can all agree on is that we live in a truly inspiring part of the world.

What will people leave with after seeing your exhibit in Salt Lake City?
Hopefully, a book, an album, and an original piece of art. At the very least, inspiration to get up, get out and go somewhere!

Where do you live now, and what are you doing?
Nashville is our home base, but we will be on and off the road with the exhibit till summer 2009. We are also focused on our newest creation: our daughter Crimson Olivia Llamas.