artist / participant

press release

Season 2020 | 3 October - 14 November

Heather Straka Teamwork

Formidable Women Making Mayhem in Merivale Blazing from the front of Mod's Hair Merivale is a team of formidable women.

Image: Heather Straka Teamwork (part II) 2019

A selection of confronting images from artist Heather Strake’s series, Dissected Parlour, have caused quite a stir since their installation at Mod’s Hair on Aikmans Rd, Merivale, last Sunday. The photographic artworks are, to say the least, arresting. Taken with impeccably controlled light and fine detail, these evocative pieces are open to a number of interpretations.

Front of house are five svelte multi-racial femmes (posing awkwardly, as if in a fashion shoot, clutching Molotov cocktails and oxy-acetylene cutting torches). They are about to make mayhem. Inside a further selection of images Straka has created await. They look like magazine illustrations: art historic radical chic. Always unafraid to confront racist and sexist stereotypes, Straka’s caustic gaze is skewering and illuminating her subject matter right in the heart of Merivale and it’s exciting.

Responsible for this feast of contemporary art in its unlikely location is Julianne Liebeck, director of Mod's Hair Australia and New Zealand. After seeing the Straka show at the Jonathan Smart Gallery with her friend Deborah McCormick, Executive Director of SCAPE Public Art, Liebeck was thunderstruck. So much so that she wanted to share it. This triggered a collaboration between SCAPE, Jonathan Smart Gallery Christchurch, and Pegasus Bay Wines (whose varietals are pictured in some of the images). “I wanted to do something edgy and fresh, something for our customers to savour. It needed to fit with our clients; confident, unafraid and comfortable with the provocative” says Liebeck who is a connector of people and causes. Her own formidable entrepreneurial spirit is being fostered to bring about social change for her work with World Vision. 

About the Artist

Heather Straka’s deep explorations into perceptions of socio-political and cultural lives have created a significant body of compelling and controversial work in painting and photography. Always prescient, the wittily observant Straka surfs the cultural pulse of contentious matters, deftly questioning tradition, challenging the politically correct, and subverting stereotypes.

Graduating with a BFA in Sculpture from the University of Auckland’s Elam School of Fine Arts in 1994, Straka honed an acute attention to detail later carried through to her painting practice, developed over several years spent in France. Straka returned to New Zealand to her first exhibition of paintings in 1998, later graduating with a MFA in Film from Canterbury University’s Ilam School of Fine Arts in 2000. Since then Straka has been awarded several scholarships and residencies: in 2002 she was presented the Pierce Low Award for Excellence in Painting from the Royal Overseas League, London; was awarded New Zealand’s esteemed Frances Hodgkins Fellowship in 2008; and the William Hodges Fellowship in 2011. Her work is held in all New Zealand’s major public collections.