Can you imagine John F. Kennedy rocking a James Dean hairdo and a nose ring? Or, Martin Luther King wearing a snapback, stud earring, and camo gear? Or, perhaps the Dalai Lama with a subtle Mohawk wearing hipster glasses? In the HIPSTORY illustration series by Israeli artist Amit Shimoni, history meets modern hipster culture. His colorful pictures, which reimagine iconic political leaders of the past and present donning today’s popular styles, also include President Barack Obama like you’ve never seen before!
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“It all started in 2014 with my final project at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem,” Shimoni tells NoCamels. “I wanted to talk about our generation and the way we are becoming less individual and more universal, jumping from fashion to fashion without tradition or ideologies to bind us. I wanted to compare our generation to previous ones.”
Before embarking on pictures of world leaders, Shimoni drew a collection of 12 Israeli founding fathers and leaders revamped as hipsters, and was met with positive acclaim. “I couldn’t believe the reaction. Young and old were inspired, and everyone had something to connect with. Everyone had their own perspective of the series.”
Shimoni’s methods are as unique as the ideas driving his art: he creates his illustrations using computer technology. Make no mistake, digital art is just as intricate and painstaking as traditional art media, and Shimoni spends weeks drawing each of his portraits on a pressure-sensitive graphic computer tablet. After they are drawn, the portraits’ texture and coloring, among other aspects, are perfected on Adobe Photoshop.
After graduating in June of last year, Shimoni decided to expand his series internationally. The HIPSTORY series has so far depicted a total of 29 figures, including the Israeli leaders, and is growing. His most recent additions are Obama, former president Ronald Reagan, and George Washington.
Unsurprisingly, there is much buzz around Shimoni’s reimagined pictures of international leaders. “I don’t know the inner political workings and happenings of other countries as well as I do for Israel,” Shimoni says. “For example, most of the US figures I’ve chosen have been Democrats. This wasn’t intentional, yet some people are saying I’m biased.”
“I want my art to be everywhere”
Most of the reactions, however, have been positive and Shimoni’s artwork is gaining traction worldwide. Already, several stores and websites in Germany, South Africa, Canada, the U.S., France, and Spain are selling Shimoni’s art, which is not only printed on canvas and paper but also on phone cases, throw pillows, and clothing; a canvas can be bought for just $80. “I have no shame in creating art that is sold for relatively cheap prices,” Shimoni says. “I think when you have a strong image, it can be anywhere and have the same impact. It doesn’t have to be limited to a gallery space.”
Shimoni hopes the HIPSTORY series will encourage us to reflect upon our leaders, our society and values, and ourselves. And even if it doesn’t, Shimoni says he will be content knowing that at least his illustrations made people smile. “Art is exciting. It can induce tears or laughter or revelation. As long as it does something, it’s good.”
Photos courtesy of Amit Shimoni