Joan Gragg was born and educated in Rarotonga. Her career as an artist started with the first Rarotongan art workshop in 1984.

For over 30 years, Joan has recorded 
what Cook Islanders do, how they move, congregate, play, sing and celebrate. In earlier works she captured people on bikes with their babies, household items and garden equipment. In village scenes of an umukai (traditional feast prepared in an earth oven), there are dogs under the table and chickens scratching. The artist writes ‘whatever happens, its only for a minute, the scene moves on and changes, so never again will it ever be like you have seen. When I paint, I try to record the significance of the moment, images that people often take for granted and are not conscious of it until they see it portrayed.’

Painting in watercolor and oil, Gragg conveys the easy-going tolerant attitude that defines Cook Islanders. Her works not only give evidence of the philosophy of this Pacific Island community, but also serve to record ways of life that universally evolve, often before we have taken the time to appreciate them.  Joan graduated with a Masters in Art and Design, Auckland University of Technology (AUT) in 2010.


Joan Gragg
Patia Te Pere – The Big Deal
July 18 – 30, 2011
BCA Gallery, Rarotonga

For 32 years, Cook Islands artist Joan Gragg has painted her take on the unique characteristics of life in the Cook Islands.

In Patia Te PereThe Big Deal, Joan re-presents her narrative within a first edition series of 1000 decks of playing cards, the characters, themes and patterns from the contemporary playing deck proficiently replaced by Cook Islands cultural, environmental and societal icons. Embedded within this story is the artist’s constant theme of humour and the unique social attribute’s on daily display within a contemporary pacific society.

While it is obvious to reference the popular local card game of Uka, a flamboyant, effusive performance more oft supplemented by raucous laughter, drinks, ei katu and cigarette’s, Gragg’s choice of artistic delivery (the cards) offers a poignant comment on the transposable and economic nature of culture  itself. With Cook Islands Tourism increasingly recognizing the commodity like value of culture within its more recent international marketing efforts, Joan has painted it, sent it to China and turned it into a large scale, affordable tourist souvenir for re-export and constant destination advertising  where ever the cards may travel.

With this type of art creation the artist acknowledges the efforts of large scale art production powerhouses like Jeff Koon’s, Takashi Murakami and Damien Hirst and gives the thumbs down to prodigiously out-dated economic theories as they pertain to Small Island States (SIS) and their apparent competitive (dis) advantages within the global trading sphere. A refreshing discourse on the Sino-Pacific relationship and how it can fuel pacific tourism awareness and preserve local identity ensues.  Also bought into question is the debate on culturally specific products, their manufacture, supplication and inherent market perception.

Joan Gragg will present a solo project with Bergman Gallery in 2021.

Selected Exhibitions

  •  2020: Tatou, The Story of Us, Bergman Gallery, Rarotonga.
  •  2011: Patia Te Pere – The Big Deal, BCA Gallery, Rarotonga,
  •  2010: Seeing the Funny Side, Cook Islands National Museum, Rarotonga.
  •  2008: The Nuku, The Art Studio, Rarotonga; Te Akamata’anga, Group Show, The Art Studio, Rarotonga; Vaka Eiva, Group Show, The Art Studio, Rarotonga.
  •  2004: The Art Trail, March – April 2004, Kenwall Gallery, Arasena Gallery, The Art Studio, Rarotonga.
  •  2003: Au Takeake e Iva, Group Show, The Art Studio, Rarotonga.
  •  2002: Aue Te Mataora, Group Show, BCA Gallery, Rarotonga.
  • 1989: In Memory, Paradise Inn, Rarotonga.


  • Bank of the Cook Islands, (BCI), Rarotonga, Cook Islands.
  • The Cook Islands National Museum, Rarotonga, Cook Islands.
  • University of the South Pacific (Cook Islands Campus), Takamoa, Rarotonga.
  • Private Collections – Cook Islands, New Zealand, Australia & Europe.