Louis (or Lou) Trakis was born in Canarsie, Brooklyn, New York on July 22, 1927. The origin of his father, James Trakis, was from Crete and he owned a clothing business, while his mother, Stella Evangel, was from Samos. In the first grades of elementary school, Trakis, who had also attended a Greek school, received the Wanamaker Award for design. In high school he continued his occupation with the visual arts, and at the same time he enrolled in a special art school, which he attended every Friday night, and in 1944 he graduated from the Music and Art High School of Manhattan. Later he studied at the Cooper Union with a scholarship until 1948, at Columbia University, at the Art Students League, but also at the Technical University of Athens. With a Fulbright scholarship to study sculpture (he was awarded twice, the second scholarship was given to him as continuation of the first) he traveled to Italy where he stayed for two years in Rome and Milan. Apart from Europe, he also traveled to Central Africa (Uganda and Congo), where he was impressed by the integration of art into people’s daily lives, especially in their jewelry and clothing.
Apart of sculpture, Trakis has also been involved in painting, engraving and cartooning since his student years. His sketches are included in the comics Crime Does Not Pay (# 32, 1944), Katzenjammer Kids (# 20, 1952), etc. He also designed popular logos for Marino’s Italian Ices and House O’Weenies.
He created his early works from copper and brass by welding and forging, and then turned to bronze. His shapes, sometimes solid and compact and sometimes light and expressive, are often referring in the natural world. He created works in figurative style but also abstract. His latest works include compositions of aluminum foil, black marble and cement.
Since 1955, the residence of Trakis was in the Shinnecock Hills area in Long Island, where sculptor Michael Lekakis, best man at his wedding to Aspasia Despina Costas in 1956, got him into contact with George Constant and Theo Hios. The artists of Greek origin, who were also connected with each other by family ties, created the artistic circle Koumbaroi, oriented towards modernist and abstract tendencies. In 1990 they co-exhibited as Koumbaroi the following: four artists from the Shinnecock Hills (Fine Arts Gallery, Long Island University Southampton).
In 1957 Trakis co-founded the Brata Gallery in Manhattan, one of the Tenth Street Galleries operated by artists. In 1965 he began teaching at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York, where he remained until 1993, as an emeritus professor. He has also taught at the following Southampton College, The New School, Columbia University, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, The Art Students League and the University of the Aegean in Samos. He also founded and ran children’s art schools in Shinnencock Hills and Hampton Bays.
He received the National Endowment for the Arts and the Comfort Tiffany Award, and his works have been exhibited at the Parrish Art Museum, the Elaine Benson Gallery, the Feingarten Galleries, the Ashawagh Hall and The New School.
He passed away in July 7, 2021 in Southampton.