Exhibition: Dallas Public Library

Installed art at the J. Erik Johnsson Central Library, Lillian Bradshaw Gallery.

Last Friday, I made a trip to Downtown Dallas to install my first solo show at the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library. This show was supposed to happen last spring, but schedules could not quite align. Happily, now is a better time, and I have the space for the next month or so.

Although I have been creating some new work since the show was proposed and accepted, monotype prints still comprise the majority of my work, so that’s what’s on view.

I’m still in the “bring your own hammer and hangers” phase of my art career, but unlike my last big show, James was able to help me out, which made it a bit easier.

All-in-all, I have 16 pieces up, framed in various sizes. Since it had been a little while since I worked on these prints, it was fun to go back through them to pick and choose which art to display. The majority are from family photos, but one wall’s art highlights the greater Lufkin and East Texas community.

Here are a few that I chose, which link to their accompanying blog posts!

To see the rest, make a trip to the library! (While you’re there, get a library card! If you already have a card, pick out a new book! And if you already have your card and plenty to read, check out the library’s awesome new historical exhibition of archival materials around Big D Reads and “The Accommodation” book! I have to say, it’s an honor to be part of the good work of the Dallas Public Library.


If you see a piece that you are interested in here, at the show, or elsewhere please get in touch. After a break to focus on other things for the summer (did you know I published a travel book?!) I am open again for sales and a limited number of commissions. I am always interested in opportunities to showcase or share about my art, process and research project. Please get in touch if you’d like to learn more.

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.

East Texas Research Trip

Halloween tree at Kurth Memorial Library, Lufkin, Texas.

I spent the past weekend in and around Lufkin, conducting research and visiting family. I added an extra day to my usual weekend visits to fit everything in, and I still didn’t fit everything in!

Due to the size and complexity of the Pine Curtain Project, I have divided it up into a multi-year roadmap and what I hope are small, manageable chunks. The last time I visited for this work, I focused on some cemetery tours and family oral history. For this trip, I chose two local history centers and narrowed down my research to Old Homer History and the beginnings of a Huntington, Texas history that I am pursuing.

Researching takes a long time, longer than expected and longer than people realize. When I look through archives or do field interviews, I usually have one or two main points I want to explore, but I also have to leave time and “brainspace” for other ideas and topics that I encounter along the way, to either fit them into the narrative or file them away for later. Especially when I am interviewing or consulting someone. This is why you may notice that sometimes my art production goes dark for a few weeks – it is just hard to do everything at once. The past few weeks have been devoted to launching the podcast and preparing for this trip.


Because the Ora McMullen Genealogy Room hours aren’t compatible with my non-resident schedule, the Kurth Memorial Library team was kind enough to pull stacks of requested materials and set me up in a study room on Friday. I stayed for nearly three hours and only made it halfway through. I spent my time going through three large file folders: One on the historic role of the Masonic Lodge in Homer; one on general Homer history; and one on Huntington, Texas around the 1930s-40s. I have 347 photos from my trip, and most of them are of documents found in these folders, if that tells you anything.

Workspace view and archival documents, Kurth Memorial Library, Lufkin.

Saturday morning, I woke up early and drove out to Huntington, to spend some time talking to Darrell Bryan of the Huntington Genealogical & Historical Society. Darrell is a longtime Homer, Huntington and East Texas historian whose work focuses on armed conflicts, cattle rustling, racism and land disputes. He is also a friend of my father’s, and very nice.

Darrell gave me a tour of the historical society building in Huntington’s Centennial Park, and then spent most of the morning sharing his research finds and opinions; and helping me understand the bigger picture around the incidents I am learning about. I came away with a better idea of the “whys” around the “what happened,” and also new, bigger mysteries to contemplate.

View of Heritage Park from the Huntington Genealogical & Historical Society and Centennial Park, Huntington, TX.

Suite at the Courtyard Marriott in Lufkin.

Since most of my work was in Lufkin proper, I stayed at the Courtyard Marriott. I’m a frequent guest there, and this time they upgraded me to a suite! Score! So, I spent the evenings with lots of space to spread out, organize my notes and snack from the giant bag of gummy candy I bought at Target.

When I wasn’t working or in the hotel, I was at my parents’ house catching up with their animals, and that was pretty cool, too. Less cool is the blighted field across the street from them, that used to have horses, goats, tall grass and trees. Soon, the field will be an all-night gas station and truck stop. An infuriating but important lesson that nothing lasts forever.

Poncho!
Sweet NaNa.
Soon, the construction site here to the left will be an Exxon gas station in Homer. To the right is my grandfather’s front yard. Harder to see – a great big hole at the end of the street to catch groundwater and God knows what else that drains from the site.

Research Notes: “Consider the Wampus Cat”

The latest episode of Pine Curtain Confidential is less supernatural than “Ghost Story, Ghost Town,” but just as scary! Maybe even more so, as I am learning to add mood music! (:

An area with dense pine trees can hide all kinds of things, and local east Texas folklore has long used the Wampus Cat for scares and warnings to stay away from places you might not belong.

This standalone episode looks at this mythic creature in more detail…just in time for Halloween, in case you were planning to trick-or-treat too close to the forest!

Here are some of the interesting items I found while researching the Wampus Cat:

The Story of the Wampus Cat in Appalachian History

The Wampus Cat, via AmericanFolklore.net

Texas Folklore Society. Folk Travelers: Ballads, Tales and Talk, book, 1953; Dallas, Texas : accessed October 28, 2021), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History; crediting UNT Press. Here are the search results for Wampus Cat. This book also introduced me to the Taily-Po, which will really make you sleep with the lights on.

Learn more about Pine Curtain Confidential and listen to episodes here.

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.

Coming Soon: East Texas History Presentation

I was selected to participate in the 2021 Folklore in the Archives symposium presented by the University Libraries at the University of North Texas! I will speak at Noon September 3, and the event is free and open to the public with registration.

My presentation, “Ghost Story, Ghost Town” will combine family stories and historical documentation to look at parallels between community folklore and a troubling era in my home community of Homer, Texas.

It’ll be short and sweet – around 15 minutes – with time for a Q&A. My fellow presenters are from universities, research centers and heritage organizations worldwide, so as an independent operator I feel proud to be in such good company!

About the Event: Join archivists, researchers, and lore enthusiasts from around North America as they share their collections and research in a two-part virtual showcase taking place on Friday, August 27, and Friday, September 3, from 11am-1:30pm CST. Participants will learn about topics such as cryptids, urban legends, superstitions, local lore, hauntings and ghosts, UFOs, and more through examples of archival materials and special collections. This is one event you don’t want to miss, so register today at: https://bit.ly/3BILXpv.

Art Store (Re)Opens in June!

I’ve held off on reopening my art store because it has been a challenge to reproduce my prints in a variety of sizes. Too small and the designs get too busy, too large and they lose too much detail and seem unfinished. Like Goldilocks, I have been looking for “just right” sizes and materials. And, I’ve recently found the perfect vendors to produce them!

In June, I’ll offer a few sets of mini reproductions and some in larger sizes. Each will be hand-embellished for a unique piece. They’ll be a limited edition and my next store update will be in the fall, so if there’s something you’re interested in, act quickly! I will announce availability on my newsletter first, so please subscribe if you haven’t already!

As always, thank you for your support and encouragement. It’s a pleasure to create art for you.

The Namesake

“The Namesake,” Acrylic Monotype by Stephanie Khattak. 12 X 18 on paper.

This monotype print is taken from a vintage East Texas photo of my maternal great-grandmother’s grandmother, Ann. There have been Ann’s in the family ever since, including me. My father’s sister is also an Ann, so the name does double-duty for both sides of the family.

Elizabeth “Ann” was born in 1858 and died in 1948, so of course there aren’t many people left in my family who have direct memories of her. But she’s the originator of the “Panther Tales” that have been told to my great-grandmother, grandmother, mother and me, and everyone remembers those. When she was young and living on Renfro Prairie in East Texas, it seemed like there was a panther behind every tree, waiting to slash someone. She’s kept generations scared straight for a hundred years – none of us ever went far into the woods, and as we still occasionally hear panthers scream in the night there, we are right to stay away!

Research Notes: Vintage Texas Postcards

As summer fast approaches and we are finally able to (kind of) leave our houses, travel is looking better and better! Particularly road trips, and for me, that means travel in Texas. East Texas is my easy go-to for obvious reasons, ie. that’s where the parents and grandparents are. And, after a year of having to ration those trips, I’ll make a few of them over the coming months.

While sending snail mail from vacations is a thing of the past, I have enjoyed coming across these and other vintage postcards of East Texas landmarks and destinations in my research.

Angelina County Courthouse, 1903-1955, Lufkin, Texas.
Hotel Angelina, Downtown Lufkin, Texas.
Aerial View of Tyler, Texas.
Stephen F. Austin State College, Nacogdoches, Texas.
Beach Boulevard and Seawall, Galveston, Texas.