Architecture and Design, Behind the Scenes, Prints and Drawings

The Oakes Brothers’ Final Week at the Getty

Trevor Oakes completes the final panels of his drawing of the Getty’s Central Garden

Trevor Oakes completes the final panels of his drawing of the Getty’s Central Garden

Ryan and Trevor Oakes are close to completing their three-week drawing project, in which they’ve been rendering the Getty Center and Central Garden exactly as the human eye views it. Their last day here is this Saturday, December 24.

Their public drawing has drawn large crowds—nearly 600 visitors checked out the work this past Sunday!—and the brothers have been there to answer questions and demonstrate their own mastery of pen, paper, and eye. You can see more photos of their work in our Flickr set.

In a recent presentation to Getty staff, the brothers also provided some insight into their inspiration for their unique method of drawing, and explained their belief that we can look to cavemen for clues about how we first began to draw our world.

In ancient cave paintings, some animals are drawn as transparent, double images. They attribute this to the “double vision” that occurs when you focus on an object in the distance while viewing another object up-close. (To try this yourself, place your index finger in front of your face. Now shift your focus to an object in the foreground. You’ll see that your finger becomes transparent and doubles into two images.) Below is an example of how the brothers adjust their eyes to view a double image that allows them to draw in perfect perspective.

The Oakes Brothers demonstrate the "double vision" effect

The "double vision" effect. Photos courtesy of the Oakes Brothers

The Oakes have continued to adjust their approach through trial and error. For example, they originally used a chin rest to steady their vantage point. There was only one problem: the chin rest decreased blood flow to the head, creating a rather disoriented artist! A custom plaster head cap solved the problem, but their technique and tools continue to change.

Below is a detail showing their new process of using concentric circles to evoke “optical noise” in the drawing, and provide it with additional energy. They also cited the circular patterns of the Central Garden’s plantings as inspiration for this method. Check out this video snippet to see how painstakingly they’ve been creating their circles.

Detail of the Oakes Brothers drawing, and the azalea maze in the Getty Center's Central Garden

The circles in the Oakes Brothers' drawing were inspired by the circular plantings in the Central Garden, including the azalea maze. (Photo right: © 2006 J. Paul Getty Trust, photo by Jim Duggan)

The Oakes brothers have provided visitors to the Getty with an educational experience that combines art, mathematics, science, and most of all—fun! Adults and children have been fascinated by their self-designed easel, and the finished product is sure to be a masterful work of art.

The Oakes Brothers draw the Central Garden at the Getty Center

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      A Chat with Photographer Tomoko Sawada

      A conversation about Japanese matchmaking traditions, self-portraiture, clothes, and identity.

      When did you start photographing yourself?
      I began making self-portraits when I was 19. It was an assignment for a photography class. I can’t even explain in Japanese why I liked them so much. It was instinctual. It’s as if I knew that this was going to be my style, that this is what I wanted to do. And I’m still doing it because I love the self-portrait, but I don’t know why. 

      What themes are you exploring in your work?
      I’m interested in the relationship between inside and outside. If you wear a sexy dress or if you wear kids clothes or casual clothes, people treat you differently. Even though you are you no matter what you wear. It’s that relationship that makes me think. 

      My new work is from when I was living in New York. When I was in New York, people didn’t think I was Japanese. Sometimes they thought I was Korean or Chines or Mongolian. Even Singaporean. It was funny, when I would go to the Japanese market, they would speak to me in English. When I went to the Korean market, they would speak to me in English again. I don’t seem to look Japanese outside of Japan. I was surprised because I think I look totally Japanese. It’s funny that people’s points of view are totally different.

      Could you talk a little about OMIAI, the series that represents a traditional Japanese matchmaking technique.
      OMIAI is a tradition that is somehow still working today. Usually, there is a matchmaker and photographs are exchanged before meeting. If both sides are interested, they can meet for lunch or dinner accompanied by their parents and steps for marriage proceed from there. In the old days, some people chose their marriage partner just through photographs, without even meeting each other. 

      When OMIAI was exhibited in Japan I saw people making various comments in from of the work. People would say things like, “she looks like a good cook; surely she would prepare delicious meals every day,” or “ this girl could be a perfect bride for my son,” or “I can tell she would not be a good housewife,” or “she’s such a graceful girl; she must be the daughter of a decent family.” Comments like that. 

      What was the process of making that work?
      I gained 10 pounds before I started taking the pictures, and in six months I lost forty pounds, because I wanted to look different in each photo. I wanted to change the way my legs looked. 

      Every weekend I went to the hair salon and put on a kimono. Then I went to the photo studio on the street in Japan. I would take a picture and then change my clothes to western dress. Then I would go to the studio again the next weekend. 

      Did you tell the photographer how you wanted it done?
      I told him I was an artist and wanted to make photographs with him. I told him to think that each weekend new girls would show up to make the OMIAI. I didn’t want him to think of me as the same girl who came every weekend. He understood the concept. 

      We had fun. While he was taking pictures, his wife would tell me how to lose weight. She gave me many tips.


      Tomoko Sawada’s work is on view at the Getty until February 21, 2016 in “The Younger Generation: Contemporary Japanese Photography”

      02/11/16

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