Alexa Meade (born Alexandra S. Meade; born on 3 September 1986 in Washington,DC) is an American artist. While Meade has worked in a variety of sculptural media, she is famous for her hyper-realistic acrylic body paintings, which feature models situated in tableau scenes painted to look like two-dimensional paintings. She is currently represented by Irvine Contemporary in Washington, DC.
I was blown away when I first saw her paintings. I initially found it hard to believe that her paintings are actually real life people, body-painted in such a way to look as an acrylic masterpiece.
Meade graduated in 2009 from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY with a bachelor’s degree in political science. She has never attended art school nor has she ever taken advanced painting courses.
In August 2008, Meade began to experiment with painting on non-traditional objects. After 9 months of experimenting, she was able to develop a process for painting on people and unveiled her “Reverse Trompe L’Oeil” installation in October, 2009.
The original idea for Meade’s work came from her fascination with how the sun casts moving shadows. She began to experiment with painting shadows onto moving people, and discovered that the visual effect still worked even if people moved from their original light source. Alexa Meade’s art creates a perceptual shift in how the viewer experiences and interprets spatial relationships.
Meade thinks completely backwards. Most artists use acrylic paints to create portraits of people on canvas. But not Meade – she applies acrylic paints on her subjects, fabricating additional shadows across cheekbones or slathering a thick layer of paint atop eyebrows and makes them appear to be a part of the painting. She then takes photographs of them.
Meade once said “I paint representational portraits directly on top of the people I am representing. The models are transformed into embodiments of the artist’s interpretation of their essence. When captured on film, the living, breathing people underneath the paint disappear, overshadowed by the masks of themselves.”
Meade also believes that “what one experiences cannot always be interpreted at face value; seeing is not necessarily believing.”
She described the process as “painting a portrait of somebody on top of himself.” When the three-dimensional tableau is viewed in a two-dimensional photograph, it appears to be an oil painting. Most find the effect so convincing that they do not realize that the photograph is not of a painting but rather of a live installation.
Meade has won critical acclaims for her work, with critics alluding to her developments to the genre of portraiture and the ability of her work to speak to an international audience.
To see how she does it, watch this YouTube video: