Mara Trachtenberg was born and raised in Long Island New York. At the University of Rhode Island she studied English Literature and Women's Studies and earned her Bachelor's Degree in 1995. In 1997 she returned to school to study photography and art education and earned her Bachelor of Science degree in 2000. She began teaching art and photography to high school students in Bristol, RI. In 2002 Mara left teaching to continue her studies and earned her Master of Fine Arts Degree from The University of Connecticut in 2004. Mara has exhibited her work nationally and currently lives with her husband, daughter, dog and chickens in Wakefield, RI and is an adjunct professor at the University of Rhode Island and Community College of Rhode Island.
Culture uses the animal body to personify our difference, to display it, to distance us, as if our human skins could provide the barrier between humankind and the unknowable. I am engaged in the process of creating worlds out of sugar (in the form of confectionary materials) to symbolize the decadence of culture and the abundance of nature. For three to six months I sculpt with sugar, giving form to my imagination. I turn royal icing into leaves for hedges and intricate decoration, rice krispie treats become forms and animal bodies. I use fondant to create smooth and wrinkled skin, spots, leaves, feathers, and flowers. I create animal/human creatures with dolls and doll parts, and then I dress, decorate, bejewel and arrange them. I make the photographs using a 4x5 camera and then manipulate and print the images digitally. Through photography these worlds are transformed from temporary tableaus into fixed images of imagined realities.
In the series “A Decadent World”, I employ the culture controlled natural spaces of formal gardens as backdrops of the lives of my animal/human hybrid creatures. The animal human hybrids are symbols of my mystification with the precarious and complicated relationship between animals and humans. In, “Monsters, Mothers and Myth”, I explore the symbolic representation of women, mothers and monsters (animal/human hybrids) within the stories of Greek mythology to express my continued fascination with the nature/culture relationship (animal/human) and depictions and realities in contemporary and ancient cultures of being a woman and mother.
Her work can be viewed on the following website: www.maratrachtenberg.com