Heather Straka

International Rescue

2006
oil on cotton mounted to board
1300mm x 800mm

signed Heather Straka, dated 2006 and inscribed International Rescue in graphite verso

Provenance

Acquired from Anna Bibby Gallery, Auckland, 2006.

Exhibitions

Emily Wolfe, Heather Straka, Gavin Hurley, Anna Bibby Gallery, Auckland, 29 August – 23 September, 2006.

Essay

Heather Straka’s cross-cultural portraits provoke an often discomfiting array of questions as to who may lay claim to a culture and its artefacts, and what cultural transforma...

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Estimate $12,000 - $16,000
Achieved $16,100

Heather Straka

International Rescue

2006

oil on cotton mounted to board

signed Heather Straka, dated 2006 and inscribed International Rescue in graphite verso

1300mm x 800mm

Auction N˚1

Estimate $12,000 - $16,000

Achieved $16,100

Footnotes
  1. Aaron Kreisler, ‘Made in China’ in The Asian: Heather Straka Aaron Kreisler ed. (Dunedin Public Art Gallery: 2010) n.p.

International Rescue

by Frances Clark

Heather Straka’s cross-cultural portraits provoke an often discomfiting array of questions as to who may lay claim to a culture and its artefacts, and what cultural transformations mean for claims of authenticity. In her project The Asian, shown at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery in 2010, and individual works such as Koru Girl (2007), Double Happyness (2008) and Cargo Girl (2011) Straka presents the same central figure: a young, beautiful, qipao-wearing Chinese woman, lifted from a specific early twentieth century Shanghai perfume advertisement.¹ In different iterations of the figure, she is adorned and situated with different objects collected from disparate cultures and times.

International Rescue (2006) is from the early period of this body of work. Here, the figure is recognisable in her style and attire as the ‘new woman’ of 1920s Shanghai and its rapidly modernising and commercial culture. However, this woman has been plucked from her time and repositioned in a scene evocative of 1930s-40s China and the catastrophic Japanese invasion of that period: a smoky grey sky, a box of first aid supplies, and a plane flying ominously overhead. This apparently slight temporal shift, taking a figure from the 1920s and moving her forward in time by only a few years, has tremendous if culturally specific import. In this transposition, interactions between economic imperialism, cultural trade, modernisation, and cross-cultural borrowing in the 1920s coexist with the violently enforced military and cultural imperialism of the Japanese occupation, and the largely dispassionate Western response in the early years of the invasion. Through the lens of twentieth-century Chinese history, International Rescue presents as a confrontation between mutual, cosmopolitan cross-cultural exchange, and extreme intercultural aggression.