Louis Trakis, a sculptor, painter, printmaker and cartoonist, died early in the morning of Wednesday, July 7, 2021 in Southampton. He was 94.
A New York native, Mr. Trakis, or “Lou,” traveled extensively: spending two years in Italy via back to back Fulbright Grants for sculpture, and motorcycling across Europe and Central Africa. Away from New York, where he worked as an artist and taught for over 30 years as art department chairman and endowed professor at Manhattanville College, and The New School, Mr. Trakis found a second home in Southampton.
Buying a small shack in Shinnecock Hills in 1955, he joined a tight-knit community of Greek artists such as Michael Lekakis, Theo Hios, and George Constant. The artists exhibited together at Koumbaroi: four artists of the Shinnecock Hills at Southampton College. In 1964, he designed and built his own home in Shinnecock Hills.
Over the years, Mr. Trakis became a larger figure in the local art scene: joining the annual Artists and Writers Softball Game in East Hampton in the 1970s, and featuring his sculpture in exhibitions at Guild Hall, the Parrish Art Museum, Tower Gallery, Ashawagh Hall, and the Benson Gallery throughout the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s. His talent was further rewarded with multiple first prize awards at exhibitions at the Parrish Art Museum and Guild Hall.
In the 1970s, Mr. Trakis joined Southampton College as a summer professor of sculpture — where he befriended other local artists like Victor Caglioti, Esteban Vincente, and Peter Busa. He was also a founder and director of children’s art schools in Shinnecock Hills and Southampton College.
He contributed to Guild Hall’s “Palette to Palate: The Hamptons Artists Cookbook,” and Southampton Hospital’s “You Can’t Be Too Rich or Too Thin: Favorite Recipes of the Hamptons.”
Mr. Trakis was also known in New York City, with solo and group shows at the Feingarten Galleries, The New School, among many others. He was a founding member of the Brata Gallery of the Tenth Street Gallery collective, and received several awards for his work. He was a cartoonist of well-known comic strips published by Hearst’s King Features, Lev Gleason and other publishers. He also designed the iconic logos for Marino’s Italian Ices and House O’Weenies.
His openness to different places and people reflected a liberal perspective of art; he felt his own sculptures embodied personal efforts to disentangle and liberate nature, and felt that everyone — not just formal artists — should create and embrace art in all its forms. As a teacher, he pushed his students to find their center, which he felt was an internal and eternal source for creativity. For him, the act of drawing upon one’s center to create was a spiritual one that offered fulfillment and enlightenment. In his own work, he often felt he drew from a Greek collective consciousness that endured through the ages.
Those who knew Mr. Trakis, either personally or in passing, recalled him as a passionate and warm man with eye-catching talent. His love for life was ever-present in his artwork, his stories, and his love of good food and company. Though he might not have believed in destiny, Mr. Trakis’s constant positivity, confidence, and joie-de-vivre generated a type of “luck” that he carried with him throughout his life, according to his family.
He was predeceased by his wife Aspasia. He is survived by two children, Daphne Trakis of Southampton and Athenis Trakis of Wilton, California; and by four grandchildren, Natalie Trakis, Koniko Trakis, Gemma Caglioti, and Paolo Caglioti. Burial was at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.