Pine Curtain Project

“Family Portraits,” digital collage by Stephanie Khattak.

The Pine Curtain Project is a multi-genre project incorporating historical research, visual art, writing and digital media production. Its main focus Angelina county in deep East Texas, and more specifically, unincorporated areas within it, from the mid-1800s to the mid-1990s. (And yes, that does cover a lot of ground! The pine curtain is dense and full of stories.)

This project was initiated in 2019 to document the community of Homer, where I was raised and where most of my family still lives. Once a regional hub and the Angelina county seat, it devolved in the early 1900s and became a “Ghost Town,” leaving no trace of its former prominence. By the time I was growing up there, in the 1970s, 80s and early 90s, it had houses, a few churches, a small, increasingly empty and crumbling retail strip and not much else. As nearby Lufkin sprawls further out, Homer and its neighboring communities are seeing something of a revival. But rather than the hotels, stores and schools of its glory days, we have port-o-let rental lots, temporary RV parking, a creosote plant and boat storage.

A couple of years ago, my neighbor across the street sold their land to a gas station developer. So a view that for many generations was horses, goats, pampas grass, berry vines and fig trees, is now, well, the back of an Exxon Station.

Parts of the community – including mine – are already nearly impossible to preserve. For better or worse, progress encroaches, becoming harsher, uglier and less safe, block by block. My remaining family can only adapt or leave, and will probably do one for a while, then the other. So, it’s an interesting story and a personal one, and I believe it is the right time to find a way to tell it.

The Pine Curtain Project has evolved to include the greater Lufkin, Nacogdoches and Angelina County areas, as well as some areas elsewhere in the pine curtain.


Can this work be shared?

You may share my content on social media with credit and a link back to my site or a social media tag. All copy, visual art, misc creative work, and other IP is the copyrighted to Stephanie Khattak and can’t be republished without permission. Vintage photo copyrights in libraries or other special collections not owned by me are noted in citations when applicable. If you would like to use my work for commercial or editorial purposes, please get in touch about licensing. If you are interested purchasing or utilizing an archival photo, please contact its holding institution.

Who are these people?

I purposefully change names and lightly fictionalize identifying details for living people who are not directly related to me, or have not given explicit permission to be written about. In sharing specific historical accounts, I do include most names and facts that I have been able to verify in public record, with citations when appropriate.

Where do you get your information?

My images and stories come from my own family history, shared through the years. I also use, JSTOR, the SFA East Texas Research Center and the History Center in Diboll, TX, especially the Ruth Grant Homer Research Collection and the Durham family photo collection. I am sure I will add more to this list over time. Among other things, I am a former investigative reporter, so for me, the research and discovery is all part of the fun!

Why don’t you post source photos?

I do post them, just rarely next to the artwork. There are two main reasons for this. First, so many source photos are in black and white or sepia, and worn with age that combined with the intentional abstract nature of my work, it won’t be an exact likeness. I feel that comparing the art side-by-side with the photo would change how people view the work. They aren’t meant to be exact replicas so much as to convey the scenes, styles of an era, gesture and general features of each person. The idea is definitely not to strip the photographs down to the point where the art could be of anybody, rather to bring out the personal details and “essence” of each person or scene without having to have a perfect likeness.

The other reason is that even with online archives being what they are, it feels kind of strange to post photos of so many other people who could never have dreamed that their photos would live on hundreds of years later in cyberspace, for the whole world to see. Especially when it’s so easy for others to copy and appropriate those photos out of context. I certainly would not want my middle school photo being used as a reaction Gif 50 years from now, so I give others that same consideration. And, while many photos have been given to me, they also contain other people whose families can’t be tracked down and contacted for permission to share.

When I source an image from a public online database, I will link to the photo as part of the citation. I also share some on my Instagram account.

With that said, if you are or see a family member in my art and would like to see the source photo, of course I’ll email it to you. Just let me know!

How can we work together?

You can hire me for work centered on the Pine Curtain Project just as you would with my more general work: Commissions, merchandising projects, exhibition opportunities and collaborations. Additionally, I am able to write and speak on related topics. Please get in touch to start a conversation.