my name is: Simon Toparovsky
i make art: Sculptures and installations
Simon Toparovsky focuses on narrative art. His sculptures begin with wax, clay, found objects, plants, textiles and metals. In Los Angeles, he’s particularly well known for his cast bronze crucifix for the main altar of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, which was consecrated in 2002.
In this #GettyInspired video, Simon tells us how he found a beautiful parallel between his sculpture The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian and a leaf in a newly acquired illuminated manuscript in the Getty Museum’s collection.
Throughout our time with Simon at his home studio, he often spoke of emotion and feeling. “My work shows a Sebastian without a head,” he told us, “it’s not about thought anymore. It’s about devotion and courage.” This sums up Simon and his work perfectly.
Connect with Simon Toparovsky
my name is: Lala Ragimov
i make: Drawings, paintings, gem engravings, jewellery, sculpture, prints
i’m sharing: A copy after Boucher and two copies after Rubens done with the help of the Getty’s database of high-resolution images of the collection. It’s an invaluable resource for my own studies and for art classes I teach.
what inspires me about the getty is: The art collection, the wonderful, thoughtfully curated shows, but also the unique atmosphere that feels removed from the hurried everyday reality. It feels like a better, more refined, cultured and inspired world. The curator and restorer tours, rare or non-existent at other museums and regular at the Getty, also provide important inspiration as a chance to ask those experts questions and hear their opinions.
Last but not least, the Getty has an amazing research library that I have been using for the past ten years to study the techniques of the masters and simply to look through good art books, old and new, to get further inspired.
to me, inspiration is: A feeling of a rush, a sharp longing to create something that has certain characteristics of the object, person or environment I am looking at or thinking about. It can also come as a wish to possess the object/characteristic that is fulfilled by creating its copy; or to “talk” to it by creating an artistic response. It feels very similar or even equivalent to being in love.
I find inspiration in old art and in the spirit of learning and research that exists in museums. I am also inspired by nature as I see it in life, as it is described by modern science, and of course as it is shown in art from ancient to modern.
my name is: Renée Graef
i make: Illustrations for children’s books
Renée Graef makes imaginary worlds come alive. Her vivid illustrations bring us closer to beloved characters from history and fiction including Laura Ingalls Wilder, Paul Bunyan, and American Girl’s Kirsten doll. She’s also designed gaggles of irresistible animals, from puffins to badgers to elephants. This summer she’s been at work on the paintings for Thérèse Makes a Tapestry, a children’s book that takes you back in time to the golden age of tapestry weaving in France.
“To inspire is to fill someone with spirit, the spirit to create,” she told us. “When I’m inspired, it moves me to look at things differently, to make something beautiful.” She invited #GettyInspired to her studio space to see her illustrations-in-progress for the soon-to-be-released book Thérèse Makes a Tapestry by Alexandra S. D. Hinrichs, and then visited the Getty to show us some of her favorite paintings.
Joe Reza, better known as Prime, is one of L.A.’s most influential graffiti writers. He’s also a painter and the designer of the cover for the Getty Graffiti Black Book, a monumental collaboration brought together the work of 150 street artists.
Prime and the other Getty Black Book artists were inspired by historic books in the collections of the Getty Research Institute that showcase amazing scripts and geometric designs. The contemporary artists crafted letterforms, drafted perspective, and merged line, color, and form with the same techniques employed by Renaissance masters like Albrecht Dürer in their own book designs.
These books’ survival across the centuries made a deep impression on Prime. “They make me want to create something that will last,” he told us, “something that will be saved and cherished.”
#GettyInspired visited Prime’s studio downtown, then joined him to page through some of his favorite rare books.
my name is: Virginia Hein
i make: Drawings, paintings and sketches, though I can’t always separate those things. Most all of my personal work is done on location…since several years ago my work left the confines of the studio. I love the focused attention of observing a place, and everything that makes it distinct, as well as the immediacy and the unpredictability of observing and drawing life as it happens.
i’m sharing: A watercolor panorama of the Getty Center.
what inspires me about the getty: Aside from the fact that the Getty has had some truly wonderful shows, like the recent Turner and Andrea del Sarto exhibitions, I am always inspired by the site itself.
Taking the tram up the hill feels like I’m approaching a marble temple high on a hill with that marvelous 360° view (I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that way). The grounds, garden and buildings with their sculptural light are always a pleasure to wander (and sketch!).
I’ve always appreciated that the Getty maintains a gallery dedicated to drawing, where I’ve seen so many inspiring master drawings.
to me, inspiration is: I love that the word that means something that moves one to create—is the same word as the act of breathing in. When I have really been inspired in my life (as when I was moved to begin a daily practice of drawing on location), it was as if a window was suddenly opened, and fresh air came pouring in.
The imagination is fueled and new possibilities seem to appear. Creative fuel and breathing seem to me to be equally necessary to sustain life.
my name is: Kate Berlant
i make: People laugh.
what inspires me about the getty: I’ve always tried to burst through any and all moments by making some grotesque face or gesture. I remember coming to the Getty to see the James Ensor exhibition, and I was so drawn to his works. I felt so connected to all of those grotesque faces, so funny, and yet unbearable to look at in certain ways.
I find “the grotesque” to be interesting, as I can’t really separate it from being a woman, wanting to be pretty, and using a hideous face to disrupt that feeling. I remember being maybe fifteen and I would do these faces, and my mom was like, “Is that voluntary?” She was worried that it was an involuntary tick. And I was like, no. I’m deliberately trying to interrupt how you consume me. It is a way to desexualize oneself in our culture.
to me, inspiration is: I’ve been thinking about the Chuck Close quote “Inspiration is for amateurs.” I like this quote a lot in relation to stand-up comedy in particular. I’m inspired by the idea of committing to performance—repetition inevitably breeds difference, and so doing stand-up constantly you are destined to see yourself change, hopefully for the better. Repeating the action even when it feels painful is liberating.
my name is: Mónica Bachué
i make: Clothing, and am a boutique owner
i’m sharing: A fashion design inspired by French prints from the era of Louis XIV.
what inspires me about the getty: The potential to make memories. I’m from Columbia and I didn’t grow up with the opportunity to visit museums, so when I finally was able to do it, I was always pushing myself to visit the most amazing museums. I’ve been able to take my parents to the Getty; we celebrated Mother’s Day there. Actually, I took my boyfriend there to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and that night he proposed to me. We are really connected to the Getty because it’s where we’ve been creating the most important memories in our life.
to me, inspiration is: When you’re sitting in front of the ocean and you have a lot of problems, but then finally you kind of realize that nothing is really important, and everything is going to be okay. That’s what inspiration feels like to me. When you’re free. That sensation that everything will be perfect.
When you can’t seem to find inspiration, it’s the struggle that is most beautiful part of the process. If you feel like you’re struggling, know that you are at the moment where anything is possible and you have no limits.
my name is: Maz Jobrani
i make: Comedy
You might know Maz Jobrani as the star of the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour, co-host of the podcast Minivan Men, or author of the book I’m Not a Terrorist, But I’ve Played One On TV. A comedian, Maz moved from Tehran to California when he was six years old. Today he spends a lot of time writing jokes about his kids—how much he loves them, and how much they drive him crazy.
Maz doesn’t wait around for inspiration to strike. “Part of inspiration is to create fun stuff for myself,” he told us. When he visits the Getty, Maz is particularly drawn to the views of L.A. “If I’m feeling down or if I’m feeling uninspired, seeing the view I feel like, ‘Oh wow, no matter what, someone’s experiencing something similar to me,’ and it inspires me to keep going.”
Maz invited #GettyInspired to his standup show at the Laugh Factory, then took a walk with us at the Getty Center.
my name is: Gabbi Sun
i make: Designs for architectural spaces and buildings
what inspires me about the getty: The Getty continues to be a constant architectural favorite and a case study that I find myself returning to often for inspiration. I admire Richard Meier’s work for its ever so simple, clean, detailed, and well-lit characteristics.
I remember back in high school when I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to be and what I wanted to study in college. My English honors class went on a tour of the Getty Museum and it was actually the first building I set foot in that made me truly realize that I wanted to pursue architecture. I knew I wanted to go into a creative field since I was that girl who loved to paint, do d.i.y. projects, and constantly rearrange my parents’ furniture. I was always trying to find a way to make things better in my own way. So seeing a large-scale project like the Getty, I was in awe that someone had designed every little detail in the building and each framed view had a purpose behind it.
Now as an architectural designer I find myself challenged to educate clients to appreciate well-designed architectural spaces. I often say a well-designed space is one that feels very comfortable, one that inspires you, and serves the purpose of its use. It’s hard to understand this concept by looking at pretty images on the internet and requires one to really physically experience a space. The Getty is the perfect example of just that and I always encourage clients, friends, and family to make the trip to admire the architecture and how it showcases the art beautifully.
to me, inspiration is: Inspiration is that light bulb above our heads where we are suddenly brought to a state of mind of being totally present with our ideas and moved to take them apart and create new ones. These moments of inspirational pause are sparked by who knows what…for me it’s listening to other creative people explain their design process, going on a walk around the city and discovering new things, getting to be in historic and new buildings, listening to a ridiculously good song, being humbled by people’s actions, and/or even watching the sun’s path and understanding life’s existence!
my name is: Omar Brownson
i make: Change
Omar Brownson is the executive director of the Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation, a nonprofit that is working with Frank Gehry to transform the river into a place that brings nature and people together. “Inspiration is the art of dreaming,” Omar told us, “and then actually making that dream a reality.”
Omar grew up on a Native American reservation in Washington State, and his family’s move to urban L.A. came as a shock. “L.A. was this very forbidding place. All of a sudden, I could only run to the end of the block.” He enjoys being high atop the Getty Center hill, he told #GettyInspired, and finding quiet moments in Robert Irwin’s Central Garden—a spot that offers a dramatic contrast with the urban maze of L.A. “To have both of those in the same place is a gift.”
my name is: F. Scott Hess
i make: Paintings
F. Scott Hess is a Los Angeles painter who works with traditional materials—oil paint and egg tempera—and takes inspiration from the techniques of European painters of centuries past. He paints the human figure with a style that’s been called “an unusual blend of old master technique with a generous dollop of surrealism.”
F. Scott told us he’s particularly drawn to Rembrandt:
“When I’m in a museums all over the world [and] I see a Rembrandt, I tend to end up talking to those paintings, and I don’t do that with a lot of paintings. I’d like to say that I’m talking to the people in his paintings, but really I’m talking to Rembrandt. And I’m actually saying, you know, ‘Oh man, I can’t believe this is that good.’ I’m mumbling under my breath, and people around me probably think I’m crazy.”
#GettyInspired visited F. Scott at his studio and then took a walk with him to see Rembrandt paintings at the Museum.
If you’ve ever driven down Hollywood Boulevard, you’ve probably passed right by Graham Chaffee’s tattoo shop. Graham designs his own tattoos, paints, and draws comics. He also finds inspiration in all kinds of art. We met Graham on Instagram when he shared his beautiful sketches of an 18th-century sculpture with us.
When Graham visits museums, he makes an emotional connection to artists who lived centuries ago. “When you can see the artist’s hand in the work, you make a visceral connection to what you’re doing,” he says. “it makes the art less remote, more touchable.” One of his favorites is a painted wood statue of a saint at the Getty, carved in the late 1600s.
Peek inside Graham’s cool Hollywood shop and visit the Getty galleries with him in this #GettyInspired video.
my name is: Kent Twitchell
i make: Murals and drawings
Kent Twitchell’s larger-than-life figures are the kings and queens of L.A.’s freeways. He’s created some of the most compelling murals in Los Angeles, from the musicians of the Los Angeles Conservancy to the so-called “Freeway Lady,” a tribute to his grandmother.
Kent told us that he stays inspired by feeding his unconscious mind with beauty:
“It’s like with music; it puts you in a context of high appreciation for the aesthetics of life. It just makes what I’m doing makes more sense. [It’s] the same thing visually when I go to the Getty, because I surround myself with the greatest art that’s ever been done.
The art of Greece and Rome, and Europe, is very very inspirational to me….You don’t really have to put things consciously, you can just be in a context, in an environment of beauty, and that goes into your computer, and that is what you draw on when you do your own work.”
#GettyInspired visited the Getty with Kent and joined him in Sherman Oaks, where he and his team are putting the finishing touches on the Freeway Lady’s new home.
A poet and librarian in Hollywood, Michalle Gould contacted us on Twitter to share her poem “I Spit in the Lock and the Knob Turns,” inspired by Gustave Moreau’s watercolor Diomedes Devoured by Horses.
She accepted our invitation to visit the Getty and record her poem for #GettyInspired. (That’s her in the sound booth.)
I Spit in the Lock and the Knob Turns
I spit in the lock and the knob turns.
A wire stretches between two towers,
but is it before the walk, or just after
a person has fallen? In a painting,
a man is devoured by his own horses,
after teaching them to love the taste
of human flesh. I was once told that
being shot feels just like being slapped.
I never felt the needle going in, but now
my jaw aches at the site of the injection.
The artist’s signature is neat in the corner,
impassive to the horror his brush has
depicted; the man’s body surprisingly white
and clean, as if he had turned to statue
when the mares’ jaws clamped down on him.
His blood streaks instead over his violated cloak,
down to where a hoof still tramples it,
a quite delicate pink turning red, like the flesh
of a fish where it is caught up against a wire net.
“A shame,” says the woman behind me.
“It was once such a beautiful piece of fabric.”
Title and first line from Frank O’Hara’s “Meditations in an Emergency.”
my name is: Sam Taylor
I make: Music and radio
What inspires me about the Getty: It’s peaceful, it’s quiet; there are places where you can get away from people. You can settle in and not worry about what else is going on around you. I found this little spot.
To me, inspiration is: Sometimes it’s a thing that comes to you. Sometimes it’s a thing you work out for a really, really long time. Inspiration is something you’re actively constructing. It’s not something that falls out of the sky, but it could be a moment where things begin to make sense. It’s a product of hours and hours of thought. And sometimes it’s a mistake, a mistake that works for some reason.
If inspiration were an animal, it would be a sloth. Because you have to be really patient and know it’ll get where it’s going to go, but you have to wait.
my name is: Eric Garcetti
i make: Improvisational jazz
You might not be surprised that mayor Eric Garcetti loves L.A. What you may not know is that he fills his office with the best of Los Angeles creativity—art by Ed Ruscha, furniture by Charles and Ray Eames, photographs by Julius Shulman.
The mayor is also a classically trained pianist, and his office features a piano that belonged to his grandmother. “I turn to this piano in between meetings, maybe when I have a little bit of desk time,” he told us. “Not often enough, but it helps exercise a different part of my brain… and inspir[es] me to get in touch with something that’s more transcendent.”
Hear the mayor’s latest jazz composition and stroll through the Julius Shulman prints outside his office in this #GettyInspired video.