Some of the titles of Trakas' works-Locomotive and Shack (1971), Union Station (1975), Union Pass (1977), and Transit Junction (1976) suggest movement from one location to another. Others as Crotch Dock (1970) or Berth Haven (1983) and Pacific Union (1986) imply a nurturing place at the edge of the water. Trakas’ title for Western’s work–Bay view Station (1987)—indicates a standing place from which to view a landscape. But rather than positioning someone in front of something like a stilled or timeless view of a place, Trakas only takes certain clues from traditional landscape painters. He uses their vocabulary of paths, waterways, bridges, and other landscape features to help measure movement and punctuate intimate spaces and grand vistas. Rather than planning a formal garden with openings and closings to orchestrate the vistas, Trakas utilizes the existing landscape at the site. Most importantly, the patterns of his structures are linked to the themes of the site At Western Trakas chose a site that could only be called a weedy hill on one side of the Performing Arts Center. On this hillside there already was a cow path begun by students as a shortcut from Garden Street, which winds up the long hill to the University. As artists before him, Trakas knew that the University's niche is located on one of many steps down from Mt. Baker, close-by Sehome Hill, and Garden Street Hill, before reaching Bellingham Bay. Another one of the measurements of that distance from mountain to sea is the Nooksack River which flows into the bay northwest of the University. At the edge of Bellingham's waterfront are other types of posts and arteries: park trails, streets, railroad tracks, train and bus station, ship dock, log mass and paper mill effluent, and wakes of ferry traffic to Alaska. As an intervening material between earth's and industry's processes, Trakas decided to use cobblestones from the Nooksack River to emphasize the natural path and to form a foundation for his welded steel catwalk. At the top of the path he created a series of segmented decks constructed of fir planks on wood and steel posts. In responding to the immediate details of the concrete modern pillars of the Performing Arts Center and the existing rectangular benches on a small concrete plaza, Trakas chose to weave his path and shaped decks irregularly across the hill.
The viewer traversing Trakas' structures comes to understand the site's physical conditions and to perceive the larger narrative of what is beyond. Since he was involved in dance in the late sixties and early seventies. Trakas, like Noguchi before him, knows how to transfer a sense of balance and movement to the viewer: for example, a constant change of differing heights and widths in rock steps; spaces between decks; shifting segments of decks; slow and fast slopes or paths; and the spring and sound of metal catwalk. But dance also has metaphoric meaning. Just as one viewer interacts with another while sitting on the decks or passes another on the catwalk, he also can reflect on his future participation or passage from University community to city, industrial waterfront, and ever expanding horizon of the water.
© Sarah Clark-Langager