It was a card game that would forever change the lives of Kristin Abraham and her husband, Alfonso Llamas.
Ever since they met, the two had entertained the idea of traveling to new locales for art’s sake. One day, Abraham, 24, put out a challenge: if she won the card game they were playing, they’d have to finally set a date for their grand road trip.
Victory was hers. “We wanted to travel, see the world. We worked on the concept for three years before we decided to hit the road,” she said.
The concept became known as “The Nomadic Project.” Visual artist Abraham and musician Llamas, 26, would visit all 50 states with the goal of helping to connect the country. Abraham would paint a piece for each state they visited, and then have that piece displayed in a gallery located in the next state they visited — symbolically breaking down borders.
“We’re drawing inspiration from one state and leaving it in the next, to blow the borders down. Uniting the country through art,” she said, adding that they would only contact those galleries two states before they arrived there. More information about the project can be found at www.TheNomadicProject.com.
Their commitment to the concept was tremendous: the couple sold their Florida house and practically everything they owned. Their new home is an orange Honda Element, with a platform built in the back where they sleep, and strange motel rooms where paintings are completed and music is recorded on Llamas’s computer. They’re living off their nest egg and the occasional sales of Abraham’s paintings. “It was a little bit intimidating; to sell everything you own and then hit the road,” she said, as the couple was staying near Atlanta, GA.
“This wasn’t something society would deem that we should be doing in our early 20s,” said Llamas.
KELLY HUTCHINSON of Kelly’s Fine Art Gallery, 510 N. Washington St., in Alexandria was chosen by the artists to be the Virginia home to a Nomadic Project painting. “They liked my gallery, they liked me, and I was very open to it,” she said. “I thought it was a pretty cool idea, and admired what they were doing — going after their dreams, selling their house, putting it all on the line.”
Abraham’s painting currently on display at Kelly’s Fine Art was inspired by her trip to Tennessee. It’s called “Strum,” and features a human hand transformed into a vertical acoustic guitar. The Virginia painting, the railroad crossing themed “Left at the Tracks,” was originally intended to be left in West Virginia, but was housed at the Fayette Gallery in Kentucky after they couldn’t find an open gallery in West Virginia. Like her others, Abraham created the “symbolic realism” pieces with acrylic paint on a 24x30-inch canvas.
From Dec. 21-31, The Nomadic Project will have paintings in all 50 states, from the first Florida-inspired piece located in Huntsville, AL, and the project’s final location, Hawaii.
“That’s the grand finale of this phase,” said Abraham. “The exhibit will be spread out throughout all 50 states for those 10 days only.”
In Virginia, that window is slightly smaller, as Kelly’s Fine Art will be closed from Dec. 24 through Jan. 1, 2007.
All the paintings, and the stories behind them, are located on www.thenomadicproject.com.
NEXT YEAR, the couple plans to bring the paintings together for a multi-media exhibit. Llamas’s music — written on and inspired by the road trip — will be played and commemorated in an album. Abraham also plans on incorporating e-mails they have received from their Web site as a way to lead viewers from one painting to the next. “There was a lot of negativity we faced, and a lot of encouragement. We want to show all of it,” she said. “In the beginning, we were both tempted to give up — hitting the road without friends or family. We were asking ‘Can we finish this?’ only five states into it. Then, towards the middle, it was almost as if we never wanted it to stop.”
But as this phase of the project comes to an end, Abraham said it’s been a trip worth taking.
“We’ve really grown artistically and emotionally. It’s given us a broader spectrum of the landscape of our country,” she said.
“But now that we’re nearing the end, we are looking forward to having a few homecooked meals — instead of spaghetti from our camp stove.”