Wendy's Cigarette

May 9 - June 10, 2023

A collaborative exhibition featuring paintings by Heather Straka, with installations & objects by Emily Hartley-Skudder...

installation view - front gallery

installation view - front gallery

installation view - front gallery

installation view - front gallery

installation view - front gallery

installation view - front leading to back gallery

installation view - back gallery

installation view - back gallery

The collaboration for this exhibition began when Heather Straka invited Emily Hartley-Skudder to join forces, taking the mystery of Café Continental as a hazy starting point.1 Coincidentally, both artists had been re-watching Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, already thinking about how they could bring the spirit of the ‘Overlook Hotel’ into their work.

Wendy’s Cigarette indulges the artists’ shared love of film, artifice and the haunted aura of old interiors. Through regular conversations, Straka and Hartley-Skudder have slowly cross-pollinated ideas. Movie and literary recommendations were bounced back and forth. The artists looked to examples of elaborate historical buildings as signs of colonial expansion — the attempt to recreate structures the same as in Britain but with differing landscapes and resources, often resulting in disaster.2 Images of the Café Continental conjured a memory of the famous Cliff House in San Francisco which burnt down just two years earlier in 1907.3 This led to thinking about the Ballantynes department store fire here in Ōtautahi… And so the correlations continued.

The resulting exhibition flattens eras and merges narratives; intertwining the artists' distinct sensibilities. The title proposes an answer to the whodunnit, gives a nod to the little details which add to the suspense in horror films, while also paying tribute to the long-suffering actress Shelley Duvall. The unearthly characters who occupy Straka’s oil paintings sit within Hartley-Skudder’s installations, trapped in an eerie time-warp. Look closer for the cameo appearance of Hartley-Skudder who once dreamed of being a child-villain movie star. Wendy’s Cigarette sees the gritty Gen Xer dirty up the pastel-clad Millenial’s pristine aesthetic — singeing edges with cigarette burns and leaving hair in the plug holes.

1Café Continental was an Edwardian seaside hotel built on Sumner Beach in 1906. It only stood for three years, mysteriously catching fire at about 3:45am on Sunday morning, 13th June 1909. Although a message was immediately telephoned through to the Christchurch Fire Brigade, no fire engines arrived. Later it was found that a decision had been made not to come as there was enough water in Sumner to fight the fire and it would take nearly one hour for the fire brigade to get there — far too tiring for their horses. However, the Sumner mains appear to have been broken at the time and the water pressure was so low, the local brigade was unable to save the burning building. By the next day, all that was left of the Café Continental was a wide chimney stack.

1 Riley, Wendy, “Cafe Continental, Sumner’s Fabulous Edwardian Cafe 1906–1909,” Lost Christchurch: lostchristchurch.wordpress.com
2 Seacliff Lunatic Asylum, which opened in 1884 in Otago, is a notorious example of this. Its grand and beautiful buildings were largely built by unskilled in-patients, going on to suffer persistent structural issues, a landslide and a fatal fire in 1942.
3 First seen by Hartley-Skudder in Patrick Pound’s exhibition Documentary Intersect at Adam Art Gallery, 2016.


Paintings - Heather Straka

Hostess Lydia, 2023, 920 x 760mm

Wendy, 2023, 980 x 790mm

Lisa, 2023, 910 x 735mm

Louise, 2023, 910 x 735mm

Room Service, 2023, 930 x 730mm

Honey, 2018-2022, 870 x 710mm

Café Continental, 2023, 350 x 490mm

Claiming Paradise, 2023, 350 x 490mm

Defenders of NZ – Burning, 2023, 510 x 680mm

Wendy's Cigarette, 2023, 430 x 530mm


George, 2023, 600 x 500mm
Mr Ballantyne, 2023, 600 x 500mm


Café Continental Room 237, 2023, 420 x 310mm
Café Continental Room 1408, 400 x 300mm


Installations - Emily Hartley-Skudder

Peach Crease Motel featuring Wendy, 2023

Peach Crease Motel featuring Wendy

Peach Crease Motel featuring Wendy - detail

Peach Crease Motel featuring Wendy - detail

Green Tea with Honey, 2023

Green Tea with Honey

Green Tea with Honey - side view Green Tea with Honey - detail


Red Piazza, 2020 - 2023

Red Piazza

Red Piazza - side view

Red Piazza - detail




Details of works