Professional artist and University of Rhode Island alum Mara Trachtenberg has made a name for herself in the art world, but hasn’t forgotten where she started.
Trachtenberg was born and raised in Long Island and graduated from URI in 1995 with a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature and Women’s Studies. She returned to school in 1997 to study photography and art, which she discovered would become her passion and calling in life. Since then, Trachtenberg’s list of accomplishments has been staggering.
In 2000, she began teaching art and photography to high schoolers in Bristol, Rhode Island, and earned her MFA from the University of Connecticut four years later. Currently, Trachtenberg is the president of the Hera Gallery in Wakefield, which is one of the oldest feminist art cooperatives in the country. She recently received the Rhode Island State Council for the Arts Fellowship in Photography for 2016, and even returned to her alma mater in professional capacity to teach an introductory Gender and Women’s Studies class.
“It’s a pleasure [to teach at URI],” Trachtenberg said. “I feel as if I am giving back to the school where I grew intellectually, which has influenced my worldview, my life choices and my work as an artist.”
Trachtenberg explained that she misses her time as a student studying with Professor Dana Shugar, who passed away some years ago. Trachtenberg said Professor Shugar was a brilliant teacher and pushed her to think critically about everything, including her work.
Trachtenberg’s artwork is strongly related to animals, nature and food. In 2006, Trachtenberg began experimenting with cake-makers’ media to make sculptures, which led to her current body of work, entitled “A Decadent World.”
“[I am] at once perplexed by and in awe of the relationship between animals and humans and the myriad ways human cultures use, abuse, fear, love and revere animals,” Trachtenberg explained about her inspirations.
“A Decadent World” explores the relationship with culture and nature. She described how she creates her pieces and the relationship each part has with one another.
“The forms begin with rice cereal treats that I mold into animal and topiary forms. I then cover them with royal icing and fondant, and decorate them with more royal icing. I frost the skies with royal icing and a spatula. I use green sanding sugar to make the grass, and pipe royal icing to make hedges.”
Trachtenberg also took the same approach with her mythology-based series, “Monsters, Mothers and Myth.”
Trachtenberg currently lives with her husband, daughter, dogs and chickens in Wakefield. Further information about “A Decadent World,” along with the rest of Trachtenberg’s artwork, can be found on her website, maratrachtenberg.com.