Almost one month into 2022, I am finally able to get back in my studio and make fresh monotype prints. Because this process must be completed in one go, it needs more dedicated time than other types of art. And time is something that has been in short supply!
For the my first print of 2022, I chose a vintage photo of my great-grandparents in the 1920s or 30s. Doing the math now, I realize this would make it close to 100 years ago. That seems hard to believe. While Beatrice died at 68 in 1978, Charlie, aka Grandy, lived into his nineties – almost to the year 2000! So, I knew him quite well.
What I like about this photo – other than the people in it – is how stylish she looks. I was too young to have memories of Beatrice before she passed, but I have always been told about her fashion sense and desire to keep current on trends. I see her angular 1920s bob and her shoes and think this was a person who had a sensibility beyond her rural environment.
Not sure if Grandy shared her fashion sense, but I remember that he didn’t like being gifted jogging suits at Christmas. So, maybe.
My art is currently being exhibited at Imprint ATX, a group exhibition held in conjunction with PrintAustin at Contracommon in Bee Cave. It’s free to see, and up through Feb. 15.
I made a quick trip down to Austin in early January to hang my art, and see the space for the first time. Only a few other artists had installed their work when I was there, but what I saw, and have since seen in photographs, is really impressive. Contracommon is a beautiful, light-filled space and the drive there takes you through some really pretty scenery. And it’s not too far from The County Line BBQ, and Sandeez Hamburger Hut! What I’m saying is, there are plenty of reasons to make the trip to see this show. If you do, please tag me on Instagram @pinecurtainproject!
Hanging on the wall are originals: “Kerrville, Texas” and “Grand Saline Hall.” Hand-embellished, one-of-a-kind signed, matted and framed smaller prints are “Downtown Austin, 1940s” and “Fairground Fun.” I also took a selection of unframed hand-embellished prints, including East Texas Church, Railroad Gang, andNature’s Playground. If you are interested in pricing, purchase or more information regarding these specific pieces, please contact Contracommon, or let me know and I will put you in touch.
Each year, my community church puts up a lighted nativity scene, replacing the live nativity scene that it produced in the 1980s, after everyone got older and more tired. After Thanksgiving, busy groups of people work together to test lights, assemble figures and finally, install them on the church grounds and roof. This piece is based on a photo of that process. (I dare not call it vintage since it was within the last 15 years!)
I purposefully left the figures a little abstract. The main reason is because they’re so tiny that trying to personalize them would not render them recognizable anyway. But also because at gatherings like these, it is less about the individual and more about the group. And I would go further and say it is less about this particular group, and more about the spirit of tradition and faith moving through them, as it has before, after and as it will again.
I spent the past weekend in and around Lufkin, conducting research and visiting family. I added an extra day to my usual weekend visits to fit everything in, and I still didn’t fit everything in!
Due to the size and complexity of the Pine Curtain Project, I have divided it up into a multi-year roadmap and what I hope are small, manageable chunks. The last time I visited for this work, I focused on some cemetery tours and family oral history. For this trip, I chose two local history centers and narrowed down my research to Old Homer History and the beginnings of a Huntington, Texas history that I am pursuing.
Researching takes a long time, longer than expected and longer than people realize. When I look through archives or do field interviews, I usually have one or two main points I want to explore, but I also have to leave time and “brainspace” for other ideas and topics that I encounter along the way, to either fit them into the narrative or file them away for later. Especially when I am interviewing or consulting someone. This is why you may notice that sometimes my art production goes dark for a few weeks – it is just hard to do everything at once. The past few weeks have been devoted to launching the podcast and preparing for this trip.
Because the Ora McMullen Genealogy Room hours aren’t compatible with my non-resident schedule, the Kurth Memorial Library team was kind enough to pull stacks of requested materials and set me up in a study room on Friday. I stayed for nearly three hours and only made it halfway through. I spent my time going through three large file folders: One on the historic role of the Masonic Lodge in Homer; one on general Homer history; and one on Huntington, Texas around the 1930s-40s. I have 347 photos from my trip, and most of them are of documents found in these folders, if that tells you anything.
Saturday morning, I woke up early and drove out to Huntington, to spend some time talking to Darrell Bryan of the Huntington Genealogical & Historical Society. Darrell is a longtime Homer, Huntington and East Texas historian whose work focuses on armed conflicts, cattle rustling, racism and land disputes. He is also a friend of my father’s, and very nice.
Darrell gave me a tour of the historical society building in Huntington’s Centennial Park, and then spent most of the morning sharing his research finds and opinions; and helping me understand the bigger picture around the incidents I am learning about. I came away with a better idea of the “whys” around the “what happened,” and also new, bigger mysteries to contemplate.
Since most of my work was in Lufkin proper, I stayed at the Courtyard Marriott. I’m a frequent guest there, and this time they upgraded me to a suite! Score! So, I spent the evenings with lots of space to spread out, organize my notes and snack from the giant bag of gummy candy I bought at Target.
When I wasn’t working or in the hotel, I was at my parents’ house catching up with their animals, and that was pretty cool, too. Less cool is the blighted field across the street from them, that used to have horses, goats, tall grass and trees. Soon, the field will be an all-night gas station and truck stop. An infuriating but important lesson that nothing lasts forever.
This is another large piece in progress, inspired by a photo from The History Center, of Lufkin Dunbar High School’s marching band performing at a Christmas parade in 1965. So much to like about this photo that I wanted to capture – the uniforms, the mod-looking building behind the crowd. and while it is hard to see here, the Christmas decorations in the background.
This photo was taken in 1965, whenLufkin was still a segregated school district, and Black students attended Lufkin Dunbar High School. The school, named for *poet and writer Paul Laurence Dunbar, was known for excellence in academics, athletics and leadership.
After integration, Dunbar became the district’s middle school, and it now serves as both Dunbar Primary and the Lufkin ISD education center, as well as hosting the Dunbar Hall of Honor.
As with so many other subjects I have researched, this photo was a valuable if much, much belated opportunity to learn more about Dunbar High School and its legacy.
*Note: Paul Laurence Dunbar’s 1899 poem Sympathy inspired the title of Maya Angelou’s bookI Know Why the Caged Bird Sings!
The first two episodes of Pine Curtain Confidential Season One, Ghost Story, Ghost Town are available now!
These two short east Texas history podcast episodes introduce us to Homer, Texas and one of its haunting mysteries, using folklore and community stories to tie a Texas ghost story to real events. New episodes drop the week of Oct. 11.
This piece was taken from a vintage photo of my great-aunts and one of their daughters playing at the beach in the early 40s. The young woman to the far left, in the pink dress died of appendicitis in 1944 at age 18, which is probably not too long after the photo was taken. Our family has always been close to our “aunties” and this one has been a bit of a mystery to us. Her sisters had “flower” names, Myrtle, Lila, Viola, Lucille Lilly…her name was Letha, perhaps after the town of Oletha where her father was born. Very few photos of her exist, and this is the only one I have seen, shared with me by my cousin. But this is a great one, capturing what I imagine was a nice day at the beach with her sisters and little niece.