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.
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: 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.”