Artist Amit Shimoni has become intimately familiar with the contours of US Vice President Kamala Harris’s face. He’s just altered it a tiny bit.
The string of pearls is there, as is the soft brown layered hair. But there’s also a nose ring and a series of earrings going up her left ear, as well as a GRL PWR T-shirt.
It’s a hipster version of the US vice president, who recently helped win the White House back for the Democratic Party and who pledges to represent every kind of American.
The HIPSTORY portrait of Harris is part of Shimoni’s International Women’s Day series, celebrating the female movers and shakers in history. There are portraits of the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a studded collar and gray streak in her hair, cultural icon Oprah Winfrey with tattooed arms, and scientist Marie Curie with a discreet tattoo on her neck.
Shimoni often looks to political figures for his portraits, but he dug into arts and science for his work for International Women’s Day, finding many women who pushed past the obstacles.
“Their industry was what created our current reality,” he said.
The idea behind HIPSTORY, Shimoni’s art company formed in 2014 from his final project as a Bezalel Academy art student, is to bring the icons down to earth — with a colorful twist.
“We’re so used to seeing politicians as an image, a mega person and not the real person,” said Shimoni. “That trend is changing and Kamala Harris is a great example of someone who’s not up there on the mountain.”
These famous faces are “hipsterized” by Shimoni — tattooed and pierced, given dyed hair, oversized glasses and studded collars in his Photoshop gallery. He sees each portrait as a kind of visual Wikipedia page, giving people of all ages the ability to relate to an iconic figure.
Each portrait takes several days of research. During this stage, Shimoni watches films, reads and listen to speeches made by or about his subject.
He bases his portraits on an iconic photo of the person, as he wants them to be recognizable. He then plays around with his own inspiration, imagining Queen Elizabeth at her own sweet 16 and Hillary Clinton as an aging hippie with violet-tinged gray locks.
Shimoni wants people of his generation to take a good look at these historical figures.
“I see the power of those who influenced history and if I can make them more approachable, more hip and put them at our eye level, then I can get kids and teens to get to know them too,” he said. “I dress them like the younger generation to show them as the real influencers of today. It’s to show they’re the ones who really made an impact.”
Shimoni’s partnerships have spanned the globe, including a collaboration with the Norwegian government for Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s campaign posters and the portrait of Clinton for the New York Times’ Women of the World event.
He also sells portraits and other merchandise based on his portraits on the HIPSTORY website, bringing the historical portraits to life in posters, postcards, pins and notebooks.
“I never loved history as a kid. I was a terrible student,” said Shimoni. “Now HIPSTORY shows me how much color there was, and you get how these people were so much bigger than reality.”
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