A Multitude of Matriarchs

“Multitude of Matriarchs,” Monotype Print: Acrylic and Ink by Stephanie Khattak.

This print was taken from a 1960s baby shower at the Homer United Methodist Church. These were the hostesses, family friends who could always be counted on to spray their hair, polish up their cat-eye glasses and punch bowls, and run the show.

Many, many years after this, I hosted my first shower for my own expectant friend, in the same church fellowship hall where these ladies stand. I remember standing in the church breezeway, cutting gladiola stems, wondering if we had enough tablecloths and feeling a connection to the community of “aunties” who I had seen do the same things over the years. I’m proud to come from a community where it is second nature to show up and celebrate people.

Besties

“Besties, 1980” by Stephanie Khattak. Embellished acrylic monotype.

In rural East Texas, your first best friends are your cousins and your neighbors. And often, your cousin IS your neighbor! In my case, my cousin spent lots of time visiting my grandmother, who lived just one stop sign and few houses away. So, almost a neighbor.⁠

I’m an only child, and people often ask “Weren’t you lonely growing up?” ⁠

Because of my cousin and my neighbor, I really can’t relate to that question. How could I be lonely when one bestie lived at the far end of my driveway and the other was conveniently at all family functions? Plus, they’re older than me by a few years, so I don’t know what it’s like not to have friends like them.

An upside to being related to and living next door to your best friends is that they’re stuck with you for life. Lucky them! And lucky, lucky me.

Homer Church

“Homer United Methodist Church, 1961.” Print and Acrylic Paint, Stephanie Khattak.

For generations of my family in East Texas, life centered around Homer United Methodist Church. It functioned (and still does) as part house of worship, part community hub. Sunday services were of equal importance to potluck suppers, holiday events, and youth group get-togethers as well as volleyball games, dances and other non-religious activities. Regardless of how religious you were or weren’t, whether you were a member or a prospective member, or just there to fellowship – ours was a church that just got everyone together for a good time. It was all part of God’s work.

Those good times bound our community through generations. This print is taken from a photo taken outside the first church building in 1961. In the source photo is my mom and a few of her best friends. She still sees many of them every few weeks at least, and not necessarily at church. Many of my friends and I have the same kind of relationships, which were also cultivated through the church but exist outside its walls. We genuinely liked, and still like each other.

The church sits where the Homer “town square” used to be. So, it has a legacy in East Texas history as a place of excitement and energy. The church seen here was replaced with a more modern building in the later 60s, which is still there. My family lived a few doors down from the church, within walking distance. Or, when I was learning to drive, within driving the riding lawnmower distance!

Art on a Monday

Abstract floral monotype by Stephanie Khattak.

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”
― Thomas Merton , No Man Is an Island

It’s Monday in “Studio No-Name,” and I’m still thinking on what to call my creative space. It won’t be Studio No-Name!

The process of naming my studio makes me think of the saying, “you must name it to claim it.” I have struggled with “claiming” my identity as an artist over the years, for all the reasons that many people do. I’m not conventionally educated. It’s not my primary income. I’m just not “there yet.” It doesn’t feel like “work”. But art is art and artists are artists. I think it’s important to take steps to legitimize the work that we do, whether our pieces are hung in galleries, displayed proudly at Mom’s house or decorating our own spaces. I’m trying to be better at claiming my practice, and so should you! (Even if we’ve never met, if you’re an artist, I suspect that you can relate to this.)

With that in mind, earlier today, I renewed my Texas Visual Arts Association membership and made a spreadsheet for places to submit work to in the next few months. This isn’t something I have done before, and I’m excited to try! It’s not an easy season of life to be an artist, especially an emerging artist, but opportunities are still there.


I have started a series of work that will be ready for sale in October. I closed my store at the beginning of the year, but I miss having it as a goal to work toward. The sales are nice, of course, but so is the self-directed goal of making enough work to post.

Because my Pine Curtain project is so specific, those pieces won’t be for sale, at least not right away. So, that frees my mind to switch to different subject matter and processes for a while. The above abstract floral is one of a few smaller works on paper that will be available, and I am also working, for the first time, on some larger pieces!

Print Portraits

Acrylic monotype print in progress by Stephanie Khattak
Acrylic monotype print in progress by Stephanie Khattak

My mom came for a short visit a few weekends ago, and brought another stack of family photos. It included these 1940s-era portraits of my grandmother and great-aunt, both of whom I was very close to.

Creatively, I thought that the portrait style would work well printed from my round Gelli plate. Personally, I enjoyed making these because it gave me the opportunity to remember my MiMi and Auntie, and think about what their lives may have been like when they posed for these photos and all the hopes and dreams they had for themselves at that time. My Auntie outlived my MiMi by 32 years, but I think they both had really good lives that they enjoyed and were proud of. That’s comforting to know as I am painting and printing their portraits and thinking of them, and still missing them, too.

Outside of the Beauty Shop

These are the final prints from the third piece in my Pine Curtain Stories project. They feature my father and my aunt, most likely in the 1960s. They’re standing outside my grandmother’s beauty shop, a business addition to their home.

My favorite parts of these prints are my aunt’s pink purse and the dog that my dad is holding, a chihuahua named Pinky who lived long enough to emerge from under my grandmother’s couch and glower at me when I was a baby in the 70s. With the styling of the print, this Pinky looks more like Poncho, a long-haired chihuahua who my dad is probably at home holding right now.

There are subtle differences in the print, and I only added gold leaf to one. The other, I “shined up” with metallic, iridescent and inference acrylics.

“Outside the Beauty Shop, 1/2” by Stephanie Khattak.
“Outside the Beauty Shop, 2/2” by Stephanie Khattak.
Detail shot of dog.

Posca Marker Print

As I continue to experiment with print processes, I have enjoyed trying out new items to use for plates and printing material. This print was made using Uni Posca markers on Grafix Dura-lar. Using the same process as my plexiglass prints, I placed a source image under the Dura-lar, then drew over it with the Posca markers. I think it worked well, came out a little lighter than the other method but it is fun to be able to mix up the look of the art. I did have to work faster, as the markers dry a bit faster than acrylic or printing ink. This method is great for quicker projects when you want to do something creative or try an idea without making a mess, having to take out a lot of supplies, or using a full sheet of plexiglass. The Dura-lar is also easy to cut to size, making it an affordable option for smaller prints.

I focused on the figure in this print, as I felt the marker would be too light to make a background look good. Instead, I used a dot pattern for some extra visual interest.

Of course, I embellished it with gold leaf at the end.

Monoprint using Grafix Dura-lar and Posca Markers by Stephanie Khattak.

Relational Abstraction

“I have been continuously aware that in painting, I am always dealing with… a relational structure. Which in turn makes permission ‘to be abstract’ no problem at all.”
Robert Motherwell

This is another plexiglass print based off an old family photo. Pictures don’t do it justice, but I am still comfortable and happy with the idea that the abstraction is a bonus, if not the entire point. With that in mind, when I embellish the pieces (this time with Posca markers) I try to do so using texture or pattern versus filling in the blank spots or going over the lines to make them look more real.

I like this Motherwell quote and feel that it does a good job of summarizing what I’m doing with this art project. Relational structure vs. a copy or exact representation. In this print, for instance, the way the two figures relate to each other and the lilac sky’s relationship to the gold grass are the important parts of the work. The colors invoke not only the vintage photograph source material, but also a very specific type of “magic hour” that you get in East Texas, when the light is warm, soft and golden. The figures, my mother and uncle, are dressed up and posed in their Sunday best, the clothing and details are abstract, but I believe their relationship to each other and the moment is captured pretty well. (If I say so myself, haha!)