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Kristen Llamas On Beauty

Kristin Llamas: The Socratic Dialogues

October 19, 2013 – February 8, 2014

Nashville, TN – The Parthenon Museum continues to explore contemporary interpretations of classical themes with an exhibition by Nashville artist Kristin Llamas. In preparation for this exhibit Llamas and the Parthenon hosted eight small gatherings around Nashville and one FaceBook post during 2012 to discuss the same questions posed by Greek philosopher Socrates. Each meeting focused on one concept: What is beauty? What is justice? What is courage? The goal for each session was to arrive at consensus with a two-sentence definition of that night’s topic. Llamas listened and took notes but did not participate in the conversations.

Her ten large paintings, born from those discussions, focus on the Socratic questions as they relate to current events. Llamas paints in a photo-realist style and each paintings is a visual conundrum of symbols. For example What Is Beauty? Is a close-up of the eyes of a woman wearing a burqa and suggests that the viewer consider a broad interpretation of beauty, both internal and external. Llamas’ paintings are witty and eye catching, inviting the viewer to take part in the Socratic dialogues that inspired them.

The James Cowan Collection

On an April day in 1927, twenty-one crates arrived in Nashville from Grand Central Galleries in New York City. These were the first of three shipments of paintings from an anonymous donor to the city of Nashville. Some three years later, upon his death, James M. Cowan was revealed as the patron who had donated his paintings to our city. The Cowan Collection, as it is known today, is an assemblage of sixty-three paintings donated to Nashville, to be housed in the Parthenon.

Mr. Cowan, born in 1858, was a successful insurance executive, who began collecting art while in his thirties and who, by his death, had amassed some seven hundred pieces of art. James Cowan spent a portion of his childhood in Tennessee, and he considered our state his ancestral home, because several of his immediate relatives were buried in Tullahoma, Tennessee. In 1897, Mr. Cowan was invited to participate in the Centennial Exposition, held at the future site of what is today known as Centennial Park. He was quite impressed with the people he met during his stay, and that further strengthened his admiration of Tennessee.

The Cowan Collection spans the years 1765-1923. Mr. Cowan was very specific in the choices for his collection, and in the interests they displayed. His selection of works emphasizes the landscape and seascape more than any other subject matter. And the technical styles vary from the smooth almost non-brushstroke of the Neo-Classic, to the impasto and laded brush work of Impressionism. It is also important to note that all of the artists in this collection were American, most of whom were also members of the National Academy.