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Art imitating art is a Web hit

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Frida Kahlo’s surreal self-portraits cry out to be imitated. Find fresh flowers for the hair, add some sticks and possibly a fake bird, appear both sullen and surprised, and, voila! It’s the Mexican artist in the flesh.

Redheads slip into the Van Gogh role well. An overly bright McDonald’s is a decent double for an alienated Edward Hopper diner.

In the online contest of “Remake,” anyone can be an artist, and everyone can be art. The Canadian art blog called for submissions last month for readers to imitate classic paintings.

Photographs for the contest came pouring in: Magritte’s shrouded “Lovers” kiss in real life. A montage of photographs splinter a man playing a guitar to imitate Georges Braque’s “Woman with a Guitar.” A graphic designer meticulously painted red dots all over her subject to re-create Roy Lichtenstein’s life-size comic drawing “Ohhh. . . . Alright . . . ”

The play on the familiar-made-new makes the project intriguing. One of the more amusing aspects are the small interpretations referencing the change of time. The forlorn girl reading a letter by an open window, painted by Vemeer in the 1650s, stares longingly at a phone in the 2011 version. The Remake Rembrandt’s anatomy lesson substitutes the inside of a computer for a human body.

The images have spread across the Internet and have been celebrated and lauded on other art blogs. They range from highly creative, meticulous reproductions to quickly hewn-together jokes. Even contest creator Jeff Hamada, a former designer and now full-time online art curator at Booooooom!, has been surprised by the quality of the work.

He has scanned the Web since 2008 for work to comment on, much like other art-focused sites, such as Fecal Face and Wooster Collective, which merge high art and street art. For Hamada, the goal is to offer art up to readers without the intimidation factor some people might find at a gallery. As his audience developed into a community, he invited readers not only to view the art, but to make it, as well.

The Remake contest is one of a series of creative games he has played with his readers. Every so often, he’ll suggest something he would have done as a kid and ask people to submit images to the site. Create a boat out of leaves and sticks for his “Little Drifters” contest. Build a fort for a project co-sponsored by the “Where the Wild Things Are” movie. Dress up like a famous painting and photograph it for “Remake.”

Hamada wants to give adults a reminder to make art as we did when we were children: joyfully. He’s succeeding.

© The Washington Post Company