For a show at Birzeit University, Palestinian artist Amer Shomali chose to create a portrait of Leila Khaled, the woman known as the “poster girl of Palestinian militancy.” Unlike a typical portrait, Shomali’s medium of choice for this project is lipstick. Rather than painting the iconic member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine with paints or even drawing her image with lipstick, the artist uses a custom-built board on which fully intact tubes of lipsticks are affixed—3,500 tubes, to be exact.
Using 14 different colors, Shomali has managed to recreate the famous image of the revolutionary woman wearing a kaffiyeh and holding an AK-47. Though it’s not entirely clear why Khaled’s pixelated portrait titled The Icon is made specifically out of lipstick, the piece is open to interpretations. One theory could be the intriguing and controversial juxtaposition of a powerful and independent woman with an item that is associated with frivolous materialism and femininity and how it parallels the contrasting image of Khaled herself, a woman adorned with a traditional Arab headdress typically worn by men while holding a destructive firearm.