• Heather Straka
  • Emily Hartley-Skudder

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 sothe 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.

[1] Riley, Wendy, “Cafe Continental, Sumner’s Fabulous Edwardian Cafe 1906–1909,” Lost Christchurch:
[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.

Opening Hours

  • Wednesday - Friday, 11am-5pm
  • Saturday, 11am-3pm
  • Or by appointment


  • 52 Buchan Street, Sydenham
  • Christchurch 8023