Alexa Meade, painter of illusions

Alexa Meade is an American artist who paints directly on the medium she wishes to depict. She turns people, things or even real places into pieces of art that ultimately seem to be two-dimensional. Her original concept though, was merely to accentuate shadows and lights that appear on the human body. The result, which resembles a living painting, is completely accidental.

 exposure – 16″x20″

Alexa Meade was born in 1986 in Washington DC and she did not especially embrace an artistic career as she studied political sciences at Vassar College, (Poughkeepsie, NY). In fact it was a personal project that eventually led her to asking a friend to pose for her, so she could heighten the lights and shadows on his face by painting them. Once she had done her experiment, the result was so striking, that she decided to use three-dimensional objects as mediums for some more traditional painting works. Her work is obviously reminiscent of the creations of body painting performers or professional make-up artists. However, Alexa does not restrict herself to painting the human body, she stages it through performances or installations. Basically the clothes and accessories and sometimes even the walls and floor where the models stand end up covered in paint.

Spectacle – 24″x18″

Blue Print – 24″x18″

Jaimie – 16″x20″

She doesn’t limit her models to studios either, making some of them use public transport, carrying the pieces of art where they’re not expected.

 Transit – 24″x18″

She also applies the illusion that her technique creates on her very own body, particularly in the two following pictures. On the first one she appears against a background that was split in two by a vertical axis of symmetry which allows her to paint only the left side of her face and body. This picture provides an interesting questioning about the illusion that her technique creates, but it is only when compared with the second picture that it takes on its full meaning, in the second one the artist makes the exact same gesture but this time she paints the left part of her body on a slab placed before her. Alexa Meade therefore becomes her own piece of art in two different ways that complete and impregnate each other.

double take – 16″x20″

 double take take two 30″x40″

Her work hangs a fascinating question mark over the very nature of an art piece, the connection between art and the real world, but also between the artist and its creation. That is probably why some of her pictures were used to illustrate philosophers Slavoj Zizek’s and Alain Badiou’s manuscripts. Her work has been holding the attention of many art theoreticians across the world. For instance she gave lectures at California Institute of the Arts, at UC Berkeley National Geographic in London as well as WIRED and TED Global. Her “Your body is my canvas” speech during the latter conference gathered over two million views.

Alexa was asked to perform by several companies; brands such as Mercedes-Benz, Denim & Supply, Ralph Lauren or MINI Cooper. The Grammy’s triple winner Gotye also figures among her models. She exhibited in many galleries like the Saatchi Gallery in London, The National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC (which is in the Smithsonian building), the Ivo Kamm Gallery in Zurich and the Ingo Seufert Gallery in Munich.

self alignment – 16″x20″

self malignment – 20″x20″

Portrait, Meet Portrait – 18″x24″

Activate – 160×80 cm, Edition of 3 | 50×100 cm, Edition of 5 | 75×37.5 cm

The constant renewal of the way she applies artistic staging to reality seems endless and Alexa Meade’s creativity is undeniable. In addition to her work on the human body, which is particularly famous, she has several side projects, like turning her garage into a camera obscura, designing flagstone-shaped tiles or creating a conundrum for the blind. I highly recommend that you take the time to visit her website, of which the link appears below, it features a lot of her photographs, but also some videos that are particularly fun : http://alexameade.com/   
(translated by  Noé Jacomet )

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