Tomer Hanuka, who has been an artist for more than 20 years, gave his third-year illustration students at New York’s School of Visual Arts a project prior to their summer break – to imagine life after the COVID-19 pandemic, in the style of a New Yorker magazine cover.
“I really wanted to send them off to the summer feeling good in a positive headspace…they had a tough year like everybody else and I was trying to kind of spin that a bit,” Hanuka said in a telephone interview with CTVNews.ca Thursday.
Each cover illustrated by the students imagines what they think life will be like after the pandemic and explores themes of reconnection, loss and nature – while incorporating the heavily stylized illustration themes the New Yorker magazine covers are famous for.
When Hanuka posted his students’ work on Twitter, the positive reaction was overwhelming.
“It was crazy, we didn’t know what to do – it was just shocking, it’s like it has its own momentum, its own organism expanding,” Hanuka said of his Twitter thread, which has been shared more than 34,000 times.
Hanuka said people have been connecting with the artwork because it has the “wish fulfillment element” of seeing past the COVID-19 pandemic, and because the “perspectives are so varied” from his students – the mock covers became a “very rich visual essay.”
“It’s very fun to delve into,” he said, adding that the attention is a great “spotlight” for the students’ work.
“Zoe went with a flock of bike riders, something that you see in New York, they ride together in a group but against traffic, it can be dangerous – but this is like the harmony of a big city and everyone is getting along somehow,” Hanuka said. “It’s the duality of something that used to be aggressive is now this harmony we’re longing for.”
“This is the fantasy of travel, she’s holding the airplane ticket, and you see her in a new natural place and then it’s all about her mask in the water – something you want to take off and forget about.”
“You have this wish fulfillment of those four shoe [stickers] that you’re allowed to stand on being ignored because now people can stand wherever they want to – much more close to each other.”
“This is everybody escaping the Zoom cage – it’s the free world.”
“This is a more classic illustration approach. It’s just that one moment – somebody getting vaccinated – but you see all the people waiting.”
“The girl in the front of the piece is crying, she’s experienced some sort of loss and this is echoed in the sculpture behind her, in the heart missing. “
“This has to do with the vaccine,” Hanuka said. “It’s very positive, blue sky, big sky moment of experience.”
“This is actually something that happened to her…she likes plants and all the plants kind of overgrew and that’s in contrast with the small bouquet her partner brought her after not seeing him for a while,” Hanuka said.
“This is a romantic cover, they both got vaccinated, they’re at the airport and it’s that kind of moment where you finally meet your partner – and kiss through the masks.”
“The cat is crushed his friend is going back to work – he’s sitting at the home office space, longingly looking at his friend leaving for the day.”
“Here the students are finally coming back to class and they realize it’s been taken over by some kind of wild jungle – but the animals are acting just like the children.”
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Hanuka said this cover was one of his favourites, as its “art imitating life imitating art.” “This film is showing a passionate kiss, but in the theatre people are sitting far away from each other.”
“This one is about a kid coming back to his dorm room and seeing all the growth of this fungus, mushrooms animals and plants.”
“This one struck a cord,” Hanuka said. “It’s a woman, the pandemic is over, but her loss would always be there. Her partner is missing physically, and there is a piece missing from the cover – but underneath it’s showing the New York Times obituary list of pandemic victims.”
Hanuka said this was a “classic spring cover,” but with a twist. “It’s taking off the mask and enjoying life in a very direct way.”
Hanuka said that Chen imagined masks as “part of fashion,” and the “new stylish look includes a designer mask.”
“The person is blue is behind the curtain of grief,” Hanuka explained. “You can see from the photo behind him, he lost his partner – so the family is somehow picking up the pieces and moving forward, getting vaccinated and celebrating life, but some people will never cross that threshold because the pain is going to be with them forever.”