New Socratic Dialogues

Just as some 2400 years ago, in reference to current cultural issues and today’s social climate, we confront the same questions addressed in Plato’s Socratic dialogues. While serious discussions took place then, philosophical dialogues were often seen as a type of word game or source of entertainment. Yet concrete philosophies evolved from those discussions. It is with these ideas in mind that artist Kristin Llamas and The Parthenon in Nashville join together for a new body of work. We are asking the BIG questions and asking for responses from you (discussion encouraged). For each question, artist Kristin Llamas will interpret through large-scale painting to be exhibited at the Parthenon October 19, 2013-February 18, 2014.

  • What is Justice?
  • What is Courage?
  • What is Truth?
  • What is Beauty?
  • What is Holiness?
  • What is Temperance?
  • What is Honor?
  • What is Unity?
  • What is Wisdom?
  • What is Virtue?

TEDx Nashville: Artist Alfonso & Kristin Llamas

ted talk kristin llamas alfonso llamas art nashville artistTEDx Salon Nashville

AK Llamas: Please don’t stop Touching The Artwork

Visual and Social Practice Artists A&K Llamas discuss the changing epoch of earth and art. Their series of art installations called the Anthropocene encourage community engagement and collaboration. Please don’t STOP touching the artwork.




“To develop a complete mind:
Study the science of art;
Study the art of science.
Learn how to see.
Realize that everything
connects to everything else.”

Did you know we are on the verge of a new epoch? Not just a new epoch in art making, but in the actual history of the earth?

The professional organization in charge of defining the earth’s time scale is the I U G S. The International Union of Geological Sciences. Write that down because there will be a quiz later. Currently in 2014, the IUGS considers us in the Epoch called the Holocene. The Holocene began 11,700 years ago after the last major ice age. But some experts are claiming we have entered a new Epoch. One they refer to as The Anthropocene. Anthropo for man and cene for new. They call for this new term to reflect the impact that man has had on the earth. From man caused extinctions of plant and animal life to pollution and geological changes we’ve made in the earth. In 2016 scholars will decide whether or not to officially declare the Holocene over and that the Anthropocene has begun.

As artists this possibility struck us. Being on the verge of a new Epoch where man is touching the earth in profound ways. This idea triggered a new series of work for us, a new series we call the Anthropocene.

The series addresses a geological epoch, how man has touched the earth, by incorporating themes of man made beautification. We use man made materials to imitate nature. But more importantly, the series incorporates a new epoch in art, one in which the community is touching artwork like never before. It’s become a realization of just how the individuals in the community make their impact on us as artists. More than ever artists are stepping out of the studio and inviting the community into the art making process. From community installations to social practice pieces. We were just at the opening of a social practice show and the artist, Moira Williams, invited the community to come and collect wild yeast, to make bread in an adobe oven shaped like the Parthenon. The community would then sit down together and break bread. So more and more the community becomes not only viewers of the work, but also collaborators in the work.

But Why? Why is art headed in this direction? What’s the value in collaborating with the community?

When we touch the artwork, and interact with it then we


1. Challenge

2. Inspire

3. Value community


Let’s break down collaboration. Collaboration for artists is fuel for the burning fire. It ignites and drives and pushes artists. K and I started collaborating in 2002 and it all began with a spark.

At the time I was playing in a band and I suggested that we needed to get rid of our lead singer. The lead singer was K’s sister. (So from that alone you can imagine what our family get togethers are like.)

So, we let her sister go from the band and she goes off heart broken. 30 minutes later this beautiful girl walks into our practice space and starts telling us that we just made a big mistake and got rid of the most talented person in the band. She’s say you guys will go no where! I had never seen such passion, and well, because I like to live dangerously… I said who is she, and what’s her number?

Just like I was drawn to that passion it’s what fuels our collaboration. We forge our work out of heat and negotiation and refining… and let’s be honest, sometimes yelling. But this forms and hones it down into something neither of us would be able to create on our own.

Now, expand that same idea about collaboration to include an entire community…. and all those interactions ignite a creative combustion. Small sparks and embers that we as artists like to collect and gather and use to make that piece that’s bigger than all of us. That big idea that reflects the collective sum of us all. Where we see the individuals, we can also see ourselves.

So as collaboration fuels artists. The community and our society also inspires artists.

In 2005 we discovered for the first time how much the community really inspired us.
We developed a conceptual art project where we would travel to all 50 states to physically and symbolically connect America through art. We quit our jobs, sold everything we owned, and retrofitted our car so we could live and work out of it. We spent 13 months on the road, and miraculously no months in jail.

K painted a piece for each state and we left that piece in neighboring state, at an art gallery, art center or museum. As we traveled and created work from our experiences it was the community that gave us the most profound input. It was the community that continued to touch the artwork and nudge it in new directions. We came across tourist traps and man made monuments, but it was a conversations like the one we had with a local barista in Cookeville that lead us the most spectacular waterfall and cave we had ever seen in our lives. No gift shops. No paved paths. No signs. Just a crudely drawn map and directions that read “you’ll see signs on mailboxes, I think Mennonites live there, but keep going past there a ways till you come to a rock with paint on it. If you get to the trees with paint on them, you’ve gone too far.”

That work was called The Nomadic Project, and while it was our very first collaboration with the community, we are still in touch with many of the people that we met along the way. Fifty states in 13 months gets a little blurry after a while but the interactions are still so vivid. I may not be able to pinpoint the exact location of the snow covered mountain we slid down in West Virginia, but I vividly remember helping the couple ahead of us put chains on their tires and get their car back on the road. I remember the elderly man in overalls and his dog Goldie. He talked to us about his life, family and the stigma at the rotary club because he’s a city boy in a country town. He chatted with us until the sun set. Those interactions shaped that journey and in the end were just as monumental as the final artwork. Those people and their stories were touching the artwork.

When the completed exhibit travels with all 50 pieces, viewers also connect with the artwork, especially with the paintings that represents states they live in and visit. But they also want to know why certain elements are included in the paintings. They become interested in places they had never been. The community interacts with the art…. the art that was inspired by the community.

Because we are touching the artwork in these ways, we are interacting with it and each other in an important way. This is so important because this interaction has actually changed the role of the viewer. We are no longer just an audience to watch, speculate, and critique. We are invited to partake, and create alongside the artist and work.

This makes for a much deeper connection with art. Think for a moment about how much media we encounter on a minute by minute basis, because of this, connection is so exponentially valuable to the relevance of art in our changing society.

Why? Because art on the pages of books and walls of museums can’t possibly keep up with the mass media and need for immediate gratification. People aren’t in awe by a meticulously captured photograph because instagram filters make for really interesting photos all day long! Art as just another image, or film, or song has more competition than ever before. We may pause for a moment to look but rarely linger.

The art critic and historian James Elkins compiled surveys and wrote in 2011 that “an average viewer goes up to a painting, looks at it for less than two seconds, reads the wall text for another 10 seconds, glances at the painting to verify something in the text, and moves on. Another survey concluded people looked for a median time of 17 seconds. And at The Louvre, they found that people looked at the Mona Lisa an average of 15 seconds.”

So for the average person this idea of art being an interaction means that we relate to artwork differently than any other image or post we are bombarded with daily. And when we interact, we don’t just become part of art, we become part of another community. Why is this? connection and sense of community more critical than ever right now? Because we as a society are so entirely overwhelmed by the flashing of images and rattling of sounds that we NEED experiences to leave impressions. We don’t just need to see the art, but to touch it.

Because when we touch the artwork, we don’t just get a finished piece.

We gain  interaction, dialogue, community.

And they wouldn’t necessarily remember the Nashville Selfie installation
except for the fact that they will remember BEING tough, bold, brave…

This installation was the most recent action in our Anthropocene series. It was called NashvilleSelfie. We used social media and crowdsourced 100 Nashvillians to submit a selfie, along with an adjective describing themselves to represent the collective selfie of the community. We then printed the selfies on t-shirts, painted the adjectives on them and strung them the entire length of Deaderick Street on 500 feet of clothesline.

Now with our last two large scale installations the community not only played a crucial role in the art making process, but also in the funding for the project. When you have the community collaborate with you… things get done. The past two installations were billed as the largest 3D street art installations ever in Nashville. Where organizations were unwilling or unable to assist with these projects, it was because of individuals in the community that our first project ended up 345%. The next, we raised the goal and were still almost 200% funded. What this says is that we have a community that wants to collaborate as well as be sure to make things happen. It is one thing for someone to claim that they want something but when they are financially backing something, you know they are truly hungry for it. It’s a reflection of what they want.

Why did we incorporate selfies? From the first time man looked down at a still body of water and saw his own reflection, with a sense of self awareness washing over him, to today as we hold our phone away at arms length to take a picture of ourselves. We are saying we exist. We are the reflection in the artwork. We are the fuel. We are the inspiration. We are connected.

Alfonso and I attended a friend’s party last month and when we were introduced as artists to one of the guests, she asked what type of work we create. Naturally, we mentioned the paintings and installations and specifically the #NashvilleSelfie project because we had just completed it.

The women dropped her jaw and said “that was you?” She then went on to explain that she participated as a way to liberate herself from the stigma of vanity that she was raised with. That submitting her selfie was empowering and a way to explore her feelings about humility and open herself up to the world. How she felt connected to the community that joined her on that 500 foot clothesline.

Art today is not stagnant and still. It is an interaction, a reflection, a conversation. It takes a village to create it and it creates a community through interaction with it. We see many fingerprints are all over artists work. Directly and indirectly. Before, during and after it’s creation.

Without this collaboration, artists are just creating in a vacuum.

And that’s how people tend to think of artists. On their own. Loners, tortured souls, and to some degree this can be very true. It takes a lot for us as visual people to get up here and communicate verbally. That’s what the artist strives for in their work. To communicate. To speak to someone. In the end, the art is not just about the artists and a completed piece. It’s about US. Without the community and viewers, the artist IS alone. Without the community, without the artists experiences and surroundings… there is no inspiration. Without you there is no commentary. There is no muse. There is no community.

So please don’t stop touching the artwork.



How to Get Rid of Bees without Killing Them

So how do we get rid of bees from our picnic tables without …getting rid of  bees completely?

We may not like bees buzzing around our food, but without them, we wouldn’t have food…

Bees and pollinators are disappearing AND if pollinators disappear, so does OUR food supply!


Painting: Colony Collapse Disorder by K. Llamas.

Proceeds from signed prints benefit the Great Seed Bomb and raising awareness to save the bees.

STEP ONE: What Kind Of Bee Do You have?

Bumble Bee: Aggressive only when threatened, prefers to nest in loose, fluffy materials and occasionally underground.
Carpenter Bee: Oval-shaped bees burrow into surface leaving perfect three-eighths inch holes. They are solitary. They don’t usually damage structural beams but nests can multiply and destroy the surrounding surface wood.

Honey Bee: Not aggressive, and highly beneficial! Their nests are heavy and produce thousands of workers.

***Honey bees are the only species where relocation is the preferred method.

Wasps (The following resemble bees but are more aggressive)

Ground Bee: Smaller species of yellow jacket. Nests are between two inches and two feet underground. They are aggressive and easily agitated.

Hornet: Builds external paper nests that are shaped like an inverted teardrop. Aggressive.

Yellow Jacket: Black and yellow-stripes and build nests similar to hornets. Can also build nests in walls slowly chew through drywall or surface wood for materials.

Wasp: Long and thin, and legs hang when in flight. Frequently colonize attics and cars, and have a painful sting.

STEP TWO: Remove Infestations

FREE Solution…..Call a Beekeeper!

Pest control’s job is usually to control or kill the population (and remember, bees are good…if you like to eat!). A better solution is to search up a local bee keeper.

  • Bee keepers are so passionate about bees that they will usually relocate them for free.
  • An experienced beekeeper can use smoke and other methods move the whole colony out and rehome them to new nests or commercial beehives. Check out some North American apiary organizations.
  • Honey bees rarely sting, but it is still a danger, so get a pro
  • If any honeycomb is left, it could encourage another colony


gerber daisy sketch flower k llamas drawingDrawing by K. Llamas

STEP THREE: Prevention

After you get rid of the bees, try to deter infestations.

  • Remove any trace of the old hive
  • Remove clutter in your yard
  • Fill any tree holes that may attract them.
  • Install screens or fill in any holes in structures

If you are able to relocate bees whenever possible, that should be the first option before extermination. Colony Collapse Disorder (the dissapearance of bees) is a real concern with pollination. Causes are linked to loss of habitat, the effects of pesticides, and other man-made challenges facing bees. Bees may be a nuissance that you want to get rid of but they are just trying to find a safe place to live. Beekeepers can offer a safe harber. And remember next time you reach for the pesticides, that bees, butterflys, and other pollinators are an essential part of our food production. If we don’t protect them, we aren’t protecting ourselves.


honey bee sketch colony collapse disorder pollinator k llamas drawingDrawing by K. Llamas

Don’t swat…Bees are our friend. Happy Pollinating to you! Save the bees!!