Research Notes: Ruby & John Avery Lomax

Ruby Terrill Lomax and John Avery Lomax produced folklife documentary work that comes up a lot when I am researching East Texas History. Along with her husband John Avery Lomax, Texas folklorist Ruby Terrill Lomax traveled the state and other Southern regions for the 1939 Southern States Recording Trip. The Lomax’s multi-genre journey documented Southern folk musicians and their communities through sound recordings, photographs and other ephemera, and spends valuable time in communities of Color and documenting the creative contributions of incarcerated people. The collection’s primary home is in The American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.

Here are a few items of interest from the collection:

Disc Sleeve with Notes, American Folklife Center
The Angelina Four at Kelty’s Lumber Co., Lufkin, Texas, 1940 Ruby Lomax,
Library of Congress
Enka Square Dance Team dancing at the Mountain Music Festival, Asheville, North Carolina,
Ruby Lomax, Wikimedia Commons

The project’s recordings can be found here: Lomax Iconic Song List, Library of Congress

The Library of Congress also has the 300+ page Field Notes manuscript from this trip, which you can download for easier reading.

Lufkin Railroad

“Rail Town, Paper Town.” Acrylic Monoprint by Stephanie Khattak.
Based on “Railroad Gang,” a 1939 photograph by Russell Lee.

With pine trees come timber, with timber come sawmills. From sawmills come pulpwood and from pulpwood, paper is made, along with plywood, lumber, and other “forest products”. In the case of my part of East Texas, towns are made, too. Businesses, goods, and services that comprise an economy and an identity.

The Deep East Texas timber/sawmill/pulpwood boom started before this image, but nonetheless it captures important ripples of the timber wave. According to the Library of Congress, where I found the source photo, these men were building a railroad to service the Southland Paper Mill, where many years later, my father would work as did his father, his brother-in-law and many if not most other fathers, grandfathers and uncles I knew. The mill changed ownership many times since its construction and finally closed for good in 2007 as Abitibi Bowater. My father and most workers had been laid off a few years before. My father went on to have a happy “semi-retirement” and follow his dream of being a professional singer, achieving some notoriety and many dedicated social media fans. Many others were not so fortunate.

But at the time of this image until roughly the late-90s, timber was a stabilizing and driving force in the community that it had ultimately changed forever. This piece captures a time of hard work and hope for the future.


As I am more of an artist and less of an academic historian, please explore these links for citations and further reading:

Image Source: Lee, R., photographer. (1939) Railroad gang, Southern Paper Mill construction crew, Lufkin, Texas. United States Lufkin. Texas Lufkin, 1939. Apr. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress.

Jonathan Gerland, “A Brief History of Temple Land Ownership and Management in East Texas, 1893-2007,” The Pine Bough (December 2007) via The History Center, Diboll, Texas.

Bob Bowman, “The History of Lufkin,” via City of Lufkin.

Bob Bowman, “The Pioneer Paper Machine,” via All Things Historical, Texas Escapes.

The source photo for this piece was taken by Russell Lee, a contemporary of Dorothea Lange, hired for the federally sponsored Farm Security Administration (FSA) photographic documentation project of the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. In 1973 this body of work was described as “the greatest documentary collection which has ever been assembled.” I’m so grateful to have Lee’s iconic images available to build on and inspire me today.

Stargirl Untangles the Universe

Sometimes I miss painting Star Girls. When I first started creating art, I was in a place that was confusing and stressful, and I gravitated toward the idea that perhaps there were benevolent beings just beyond sight. If they didn’t have it all under control, they were there and that was enough. This was an early work that I’ve always liked. We all need a little help untangling the universe sometimes. Even if she can’t fix it, she gets it.

We’ll probably see the star girls again one day.

Animation

I’m interested in bringing my art to life in a way that has a different look from what is traditionally thought of as “animation.” I don’t have a formal background in animation, or even art for that matter, but I do have a technology and multimedia career and that has helped me test and figure out how to make interactive elements look and behave the way I want them to.

I’m also reading/editing a friend’s script for a cartoon about animals. I don’t come close to having the abilities to do visuals for her, but I’d love to be able to help storyboard, sketch and prototype to get her idea packaged. Plus, it’s an excuse to play and learn.

Here is a very rudimentary first look at animating my sketches, using Photoshop. Once I have my skills up to standard, I will post a tutorial.

New Product Alert!

Instant Art print downloads are available now in my shop. Here are a few of the designs that are available:

Alice in Wonderland with Cheshire Cat, by Stephanie Khattak
Dancer in Purple, by Stephanie Khattak
Red Riding Hood, by Stephanie Khattak


Offering more affordable, print-on-demand options frees up time to work on high-quality originals and embellished prints, while continuing to provide a wide selection of illustrations that customers are interested in. Each purchase includes three different sizes: 8X10, 11X14 and 16×20. Many designs feature a canvas-look background and hand-painted brushstroke look and feel. You can print as many times as you want for personal use only. Click here to purchase: Stephanie Khattak Art on Etsy.

Want to be among the first to know when a new product is listed? Sign up for my e-newsletter.


New York

As an artist who loves to travel, I tend to distill my trips down to what I consider to be the essentials: art, books and coffee. As long as I have those things in place, I know everything else about the trip will be icing on the cake – or gilding on the canvas, for a more artistic analogy.

With that in mind, here are my top tips for travel to NYC if you’re an artist or just an art appreciator.

Art:

Kremer Pigments. I know I have mentioned this store before, but visiting in person was a real treat! With just a few exceptions, Kremer focuses on the raw materials needed to make paint, and has walls and walls of pigments in every shade and luster imaginable. They’re also known for their high-quality pigment paint palettes made in-house. Their pearl luster palette was a special investment during one of their rare sales, and I have enjoyed it so much that I treated myself to a souvenir of their landscape colors palette while I was in the store.

International Center for Photography. My husband is a photographer, so this museum topped his list of places to visit in NYC. We both really enjoyed the main exhibit, Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “The Decisive Moment,” but my favorite was found downstairs, in “Multiply, Identify, Her,” which showcased various women artists across different mediums. I was excited to see collages by Wangechi Mutu, whose “Water Woman” sculpture is one of my favorites at Austin’s Laguna Gloria. I wasn’t aware that she made other types of art, so this was nice to see. I also really enjoyed Lorna Simpson’s “Redhead,” “White Roses,” “Big Yellow” and “Blue Wave” mixed-media collage pieces

New York Historical Society. We saw the Bill Cunningham exhibit here, which was small, but very impactful. He was such an interesting man, and did so much to make women feel special and beautiful through his artwork, without ever objectifying them or making them vulnerable to ridicule. The exhibit also showcased some of his hats from his early career as a milliner. I love that he had many acts in life.

Books:

The Strand. Everyone knows about the Strand book store, but I must list it anyway! We only made it through the first floor and somehow still left with a bag of literary goodies to wedge into the suitcase.

Coffee:

Irving Farms Coffee Roaster was around the corner from our hotel, so we went there a few times to start our day.

Daily Provisions was about a half-block closer, for when we needed caffiene but our feet hurt.

Two thumbs up for the large ice cubes in the latte at Jack’s Wife Freda, where we had breakfast on our last morning in town.