Q&A with Rhonda Pelley


September 2019

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m a second-generation visual artist living in St John’s with my partner, theatre artist Frank Barry, and our two cats, Piper and Wilda. [Rhonda’s father was the painter and digital artist Ron Pelley, 1945-2009.]


Could you tell us a little bit about your work?

Most of my work is in photography and photo-compositing. Recently I’ve been experimenting with collage. I saw an ad in a vintage woman’s magazine for a knitted suit pattern and I was bitten. It had two models smiling at balls of wool that they were holding in their hands and I had a strong urge to put grenades there instead. The subversive nature of collage really appeals to me.

Right now, I am working on a series of collage that will be a full deck of NL tarot cards. I’m collecting material from local history books, archives, etc. and blending it with my own photography. It feels a little monstrous at times – a full deck of tarot is made up of 78 images – but when I’m not panicking about the size of the project I’m really enjoying it. Researching and collecting material and collaging the past and the present together is an endlessly fascinating process for me. I plan to have to the work completed by the end of next year.


What was the last book/film you saw/read?

I ‘ve just discovered the experimental writer Kathy Acker and I’m finding her work really interesting. And I’ve enjoyed reading Half Rock by local poet Robin Dunford and Carmelita McGrath’s poetry chapbook Event Boundary.

The movie that has stuck with me this year is Climax by Gasper Noe. A dance troupe has a party; someone spikes their punch with LSD and their celebration turns

into a nightmare. It’s an extreme, pretty visceral film but the dancing and the camera work is fantastic.


What do you re-read/re-watch?

I’m constantly re-reading Anne Carson and I re-watch Rome every two or three years.


What artists inspire you?

In these past couple of years, I’ve crawled down the rabbithole of collage. The collage artists inspiring me are Hannah Hoch, Martha Rosler, Penda Diakite, John Stezaker, and Wangechi  Mutu.

Kate Tempest’s take-no-prisoners style of spoken-word poetry is super-exciting to me these days too.

This year I was part of the creative team for the production of my partner Frank Barry’s play The Strange Case of Madame D.  Working hard towards a common goal with this group of crazily talented people [including cast members Nicole Underhay and George Robertson] was a truly inspiring experience for me.


What’s your work routine?

I live a pretty simple life. I work every day. I’m a morning person and the earlier I get up the better I feel. A perfect day is a hike first thing before getting to work. That doesn’t always happen, especially if I’m on a deadline, but when it does, I feel right with the world.


Rhonda Pelley is represented in St John’s by Christina Parker Gallery. Images courtesy of Christina Parker Gallery.

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