Art as an Immersive Experience

Music has always been a part of Rhona Hofmeyr’s life. Her mother was an opera singer and Hofmeyr (BFA ’20) too is a trained opera singer.

“When I listen to music, I really have a visual reaction to it, often with color,” she said. I respond a lot to drums, certain instruments specifically will bring up certain visuals or color.”

After seeing Bohemian Rhapsody, the biopic about Freddie Mercury the lead singer of the band Queen, Hofmeyr’s brain went to work when she heard the music. What came out of her reintroduction to Queen’s music is The Show Must Go On, a visual interpretation of a song by the same title by Queen.

“It’s a very passionate song. After I saw the movie actually, I was completely taken with Queen again. I started listening to the music, and this song came up, and I just started seeing this thing and then I just made it,” she said.

The installation room on the 9th floor where Hofmeyr displayed the work is more than a space to view the piece; the 4 walls of the room are a part of the installation. She manipulated the lights in the room to give viewers the exact experience she wants them to have.

“It’s not just something you look at but a total experience. It’s visual, it’s physical, and it’s auditory in this very specific case.”

Hofmeyr was inspired to create more installations after returning from a PAFA summer study abroad trip to Greece in 2018. She said the art has become more alive for her with installations.

“It suddenly became very important to me to create an environment that I’m inside of as well, and the viewer is inside the environment too,” she said. “It’s not just something you look at but a total experience.”

At PAFA, Hofmeyr said she is encouraged to try new experiences. She is a sculpture major but also paints works in media she never expected to like digital. And her peers are giving her an experience she was always hoping for.

“There’s always been this intense longing to have that fully immersive experience and be surrounded by a community and you get feedback from people who understand your mind,” she said. “Maybe they don’t see things the exact same way as you but they have insight into your thinking. “

Since her trip to Greece, Hofmeyr has created several installations in PAFA’s Broad Street Studio. The space in the Hamilton building is an opportunity for students and PAFA community members to expand their practice into uncharted territory, frequently responding to the challenging space.


Rhona Hofmeyr '20 performs (killing) the Angel in the House in the Broad Street Studio.


Her installation (killing) the Angel in the House combined her love of and experience with music with her art. The piece included several opera performances from Hofmeyr. The inspiration for the installation came from a book she was reading in a class with Professor Kevin Richards.

Hofmeyr said inspiration could come from anywhere, at any time.

“Last night I woke up at 3:30 in the morning and I had an entire body of work in my mind. I have visions of things I’m going to be doing,” she said. “That's the creative process, right? It just sometimes comes out of nowhere.”

Rhona Hofmeyer '20, "The Show Must Go On" (2019). Installation.
Rhona Hofmeyer '20, "The Show Must Go On" (2019). Installation.

About PAFA

Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is America's first school and museum of fine arts. A recipient of the National Medal of Arts, PAFA offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the fine arts, innovative exhibitions of historic and contemporary American art, and a world-class collection of American art. PAFA’s esteemed alumni include Mary Cassatt, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Thomas Eakins, William Glackens, Barkley L. Hendricks, Violet Oakley, Louis Kahn, David Lynch, and Henry Ossawa Tanner.