Born in Auckland, Straka studied sculpture at Elam Art School but has largely made paintings since graduating. She looks from a different point of view. Her second major body of paintings were of old fashioned men’s urinals, their cracked creamy porcelain surfaces evocatively stained, damaged even. A secular Pakeha, she has made paintings of Lindauer inspired Maori chiefs with bleeding hearts and Catholic imagery, in finely brushed oil on cotton stretched over board. As the figure began to dominate Straka's practice, the photography of models has assumed more importance. Photographs become the starting points for paintings – be they Burqa clad, jacketed, variously tattooed, or painted simply from the back. Increasingly too, the body feminine has become her milieu. Sometimes tough, sometimes provocative and sometimes downright sexy.
Straka graduated with an MFA in Painting from Canterbury School of Fine Arts in 2000. She has been awarded several scholarships and residencies. In 2002, she was presented the Pierce Low Award for Excellence in Painting from the Royal Overseas League, London. She was awarded New Zealand’s esteemed Frances Hodgkins Fellowship in 2008, and the William Hodges Fellowship in 2001. Her work is held in all of New Zealand’s major public collections.