2022 Year in Art Adventures

My day job takes me out on the road, and many times those roads lead to really good art. And, when I’m not traveling, local roads lead me to great art, as well.

I chronicled my favorite general local finds of the year over on my company’s blog, but felt that some of the art I saw deserved its own post here.

So, without further ado and in no particular order, my favorite artworks in 2022! Some are totally new to me, and some are new works by artists I was already familiar with. All are very special! The list focuses on exhibitions as a whole unless a specific work is indicated.

Best Art Shows of 2022 (According to me!)

Natalie Wadlington, “Places that Grow,” Dallas Contemporary

Wadlington uses my favorite color palette (hot neons against cool and dark colors) and a subject matter that I can relate to. I could almost hear the crickets chirping and bug zapper going when I looked at these paintings. That’s how much they transported me back to a summer night in the country! I also loved how she incorporated animal companions into almost every painting.

Jeffrey Gibson, “The Body Electric,” Site Santa Fe

I’ve seen Jeffrey Gibson’s work three times in three different states: at the 2019 Whitney Biennial in NYC, at the Blanton in Austin and now at Site Santa Fe. If there’s an exhibit of Gibson’s work that I can reasonably get to, I try my best. I love how his work spans such diverse media and genre to tell the many stories of his life and culture, and specifically how his bead and textile work adds such depth and tactile presentation, bringing his work to life even further.

Jason Cytacki, “Hi, Yo Silver,” Individual Artwork, Old Jail Art Center

This single-subject portrait’s spare background enhances the shirt detail and the expression on the cowboy’s face. In its gallery, it is a large piece that anchors a room of smaller artwork, tying the viewing experience together without overpowering it.

Ray-Mel Cornelius, Winnsboro Center for the Arts

This exhibition showed a dreamy take on often mundane scenes that are familiar on the surface, but with an uncanny presentation that is just a little out of the ordinary.

R.Gregory Christie, “Work and Whimsy: The Art of R. Gregory Christie,”
National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature

We saw this exhibition on our first trip to Abilene, the “Storybook Capital of America.” And Christie’s work was a prime example of what the best storybooks do — not just for children, but for all ages. He is an author as well, but his illustrations can easily stand alone in conveying the many triumphs, challenges, stories and legacies across our common humanity and histories. While his illustrations are “for” children, he finds a way to convey the beauty of a story or scene without losing the gravitas of the subject.

Jasmine Zelaya, “Sad Girls,” Art League Houston

I’ve been following Jasmine Zelaya’s work for a while, and was thrilled when my neighborhood shopping center, NorthPark, installed a mural with her art. But I was really excited to learn that she had a solo show at Art League Houston when we were going to be there. Seeing her paintings in person was really special, and I also enjoyed how she displayed the small ceramics that she had created.

Buffalo Bayou Cistern, Houston

Houston, known for its vibrant and innovative art scene, has dug even deeper (pun intended!) and turned an underground cistern into a beautiful public art piece. The space is striking on its own. Its many columns, water reflections and echoing walls give it the feel of a meditation room. Artists are invited to use the unique space to showcase their work to the public in Art in the Cistern installations that greatly enhance an already interesting landmark. There are many places we encounter that are special, but very few that are one-in-a-million. The Cistern in Houston is one-in-a-million. (And if you’re a bit of a claustrophobe like I am, I can say that it doesn’t feel confining at all. It is also ADA compliant and comfortable for most, with six-foot pathways, small group entry and sturdy guardrails.)

Okuda San Miguel, “Rainbow Embassy,” Public Art, Fort Smith, Ark.

Fort Smith, Arkansas is a public art town, with murals on almost every side surface — and some silos — all throughout its downtown. “Rainbow Embassy,” by Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel is a multidimensional piece, its vibrant stripes and colors splashing not just one wall, but many walls, the roof and the porch, and extending to an equally colorful accessory building. “Rainbow Embassy” is installed in the middle of a residential neighborhood just outside of downtown. Set among the homes, cars and yard ephemera of the surrounding blocks, it both enhances the neighborhood and serves as a bright, unassuming statement piece that all can enjoy.

John Cerney, “Giant,” Public Art, Marfa

We saw this roadside piece while driving out of Marfa, headed toward Alpine. Marfa is known for its “Giant” reputation — the movie was filmed in and around the town. This piece gives homage to the legacy. If you drive past, be sure to pull over and step out or roll down your window to experience the audio component.

Billy Hassell, “Continuum,” Irving Arts Center

If you’ve read this far, you can probably see commonalities in the art that stands out to me. Work by artist Billy Hassell is no exception. I first learned about him from a museum in Beaumont that I follow, and was disappointed that I couldn’t get there in time to see his exhibition. So, I was extremely happy to see that he was exhibiting work in Irving soon after. In this particular piece, I liked the colors and the delicate butterflies against the strong bison. The way that the animals are grouped seem peaceful, and goodness knows we can all use as much of that as we can get.

Nancy Friedland, “Highway of Diamonds,” Smoke the Moon, Santa Fe

I happened upon Smoke the Moon on Canyon Road on a cold, rainy afternoon in late August. As a Texan, cold and rainy in late August was a new concept for me, and I have to say I didn’t hate it. The Canyon Road experience itself was really special, and Nancy Friedland’s paintings were my favorite of the day. I love how she communicates so much using mainly shadows and light as the focal point. And the way these pieces glow! As an artist myself, it always amazes me how (more experienced artists) can evoke such realistic-looking light using only paint.

“Speaking With Light: Contemporary Indigenous Photography,” Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth

This group show at the Amon Carter in Fort Worth just blew me away. There were so many interesting pieces and interesting interpretations not only of the artist’s perspective and experiences, but also on the medium of photography. There were so many standouts, but these pieces by Sarah Sense and Wendy Red Star have been very memorable to me. I love how Sense weaves paper to make her finished pieces, and Red Star’s collages are so vibrant.

I saw a lot of art in 2022! This list is just the standouts in a year of standouts. Any time we travel for work or fun, I factor in some time checking out the local art scene. Art communities say so much about a place, especially in the case of smaller and regional museums, independent galleries and community arts centers. Through the artists they serve and elevate, viewers can learn local history, values and other details that make a place special, as communicated through artists’ perspectives.

As the opportunity for art adventures has stabilized, I would like to revive my art tour programs in some capacity in 2023. Not sure yet what that looks like or when! But please drop me a line if this is something you’d be interest in learning more about. (kcocustserv (at) gmail).

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.


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.

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