Pappy and the Band

Painted gel plate in progress, 2022.

A reward of my interest in family history and research is learning not only who my family was as individuals, but how they influenced me. Both of my parents are musicians, my dad – a Gen Z wrapped in a Boomer wrapped in a lounge singer – has an impressive online music career with a bigger and more engaged audience than I could ever hope for. My mom sings and plays the piano and organ but mostly at church. They don’t collaborate because they have ….let’s just say creative differences. But music has always been a part of my life and our household.

I learned from my paternal grandmother that she had written and recorded a song back in the 40s in Houston. This tracks, because my cousin on that side is also a really talented musician – singer, songwriter and guitarist.

But what about my mom’s side of the family? She had a lot of formal music classes, but there had to have been something there for those classes to refine.

In our church archives, there’s a photo of a band in the early 60s, and the guitarist is my great-grandfather on my mom’s side, Pappy. Aha!

I really like this photo, not only because Pappy is in it, but also because it captures a time in the Homer community when it was really thriving – there were enough people to form a band and enough people to come hear them play. This was the case until I was about 17, and then it started to dwindle down. In junior high, my youth group friends and I stood on that same stage and lip synced into bananas calling ourselves “Banangles.” (Not sure why we didn’t go for the obvious Bananarama, but why be obvious when you can surprise and delight?)

I wonder what Pappy and his friends would have thought about the Banangles. But, I also don’t know what songs they, themselves were playing. Same place, same community, same (or similar) families – whatever they were doing, I bet it was fun.

“Pappy and the Band,” acrylic monotype on paper by Stephanie Khattak, 2022.

Homer Church Angels

Work in progress.
“Homer Church Angels,” acrylic monotype print on paper by Stephanie Khattak.

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.

Dunbar Marching Band, 1965

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, when Lufkin 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 book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings!

Waves

Waves,” by Stephanie Khattak, Acrylic Monotype on paper, 12X16.

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.

East Texas Christmas Gifts

Christmas Cat says that it feels early, but it’s actually the right time to be thinking about holiday gifts from Khattak Studios and the Pine Curtain Project. Getting commission requests to me by October 15 best ensures that your gift will be completed and delivered in time to frame (if necessary), wrap, and give to your loved one. Commissioning cards by Oct. 15 helps me produce and get them to you in time to send holiday greetings.

I have five commissioned original slots open, and you can also commission prints and postcards from completed work, starting at size 5×7 and going up to size 18X24. Items ship unframed and envelopes aren’t included, but a retailer like Paper Source has many envelope color options for size 5X7.

If you’re looking for holiday themed prints, these are very popular:

Lufkin Rudolph”

“Merry Christmas (Vintage Truck)

East Texas Church, 1930s” This is an image that I could add Christmas lights or other holiday elements to, to make it more personalized for the occasion.

Commissioned originals and commissioned, hand-embellished studio prints are made to order. Please allow up to six weeks for production, shipping and handling, and delivery of holiday orders. Please contact me for pricing and other details. More recent work can be found here.

Future Cat Lady

Cat Lady in Training,” by Stephanie Khattak

If you have been connected with me for any amount of time, you know I am a cat lady. Here is the kitty that started it all, Baby Kitty in my arms, in this print based off of a 1979 photo. Baby Kitty was a gray striped tabby who lived in the barn between my house and my great-grandmother’s house. I don’t remember her being an inside cat, but she was always around and a really good sport while I learned to love animals. Baby Kitty was a beloved member of our family, to be cherished and pampered as such. As has been the case with every cat, dog (and in my cousins’ cases – horse, snake, parakeet and Galapagos turtle) since then.

Ready to Fly

“Ready to Fly,” by Stephanie Khattak

My grandmother’s cousin was a career flight attendant. She worked for Braniff International in the swinging sixties, among other notable things, and retired from American Airlines in the mid-nineties after a long and interesting career. Now she lives across town from me with a designer cat and a bunch of friends who are (almost) as fabulous as she is.

Here she is with her mother in their yard. I would estimate the year as somewhere in the late 50s. This was definitely not a Braniff outfit, so I’m guessing it was early in her career. All of her Braniff photos are at her house, and I’m sure she will share them when I pester her about it enough.

Pine Curtain Art: Texas Forestry Museum

“Southern Newsprint,” by Stephanie Khattak

The Texas Forestry Museum invited me to contribute a piece to auction in its annual Feast in the Forest fundraiser. While the end sale would be an original piece, the museum worked with me in a similar process as a commission, providing a few photo options to work from for the end result. This piece is from one of their archival photos, and I chose it to work with because I loved how it set the scene and really brought back a sense of time and place. For my process, I have to prioritize which elements of a photo I want to emphasize on the print and for this one, I wanted to make sure to capture the railroad tracks, the water tower and the smoke coming from the building on the far right. While I knew I wouldn’t be able to capture the detail in every letter on the water tower, I loved the stylized first letters and wanted to retain those. In the original, many of these elements were further enhanced with iridescent and metallic paint.

This project captured all of my favorite things about working on commissions, and it was nice to be able to contribute a piece to an organization that is so important and shares my passion for capturing and preserving the rich history of this part of East Texas.

This was a unique piece, but the Texas Forestry Museum is also a retail partner, so please get in touch with them if you’d like to see another option in their inventory.

Contact me if you’re interested in initiating a commissioned project of your own! If you’re thinking of one for the holidays, its best to get in the pipeline by Oct. 1.