Meade in the self-portrait Double Take
|Born||1986 (age 27–28)
|Known for||Installation art, painting|
Alexa Meade (born 1986) is an American artist best known for her portraits painted on the human body. She takes a classical concept -- trompe l'oeil, the art of making a two-dimensional representation look three-dimensional—and works in an opposite direction. Her aim is to do the opposite, to collapse depth and make her living models into flat pictures. The result is walking, talking optical illusions, 3D paintings that confuse how the eye processes objects in space.
Early life, education and training
Alexa Meade was born in Washington, D.C. in 1986. She graduated in 2009 from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY with a bachelor's degree in political science. Meade never attended art school and taught herself how to paint. In an interview with The Guardian, Meade stated "I didn't have to think of painting as this thing on canvas, because I didn't have any practice doing that. I just saw paint as something that can be used in space.” She decided to become a professional artist in 2009.
Meade applies acrylic paint to the surfaces of people, objects, and walls in a style that mimics the appearance of brushwork in a traditional painting. The three dimensional scene may be approached from multiple angles and still appear to be a flat painting through the lens of the camera, without the guise of Photoshop or digital effects. Saatchi Gallery exhibition curator Christian Furr described Meade's work as "taking it one step further than trompe l'oeil." The effect of the optical illusion is striking. "Many of the images make it nearly impossible to find visual evidence of the secret their construction".
An associate Director of the National Portrait Gallery stated, "I was so thrown by it. I thought I knew what I was looking at, but I didn't," Meade calls attention to the expectations of representational space in the picture plane through displacements in medium and "grapples with the heady conceptual terms at stake between painting and photography". What remains is portraiture in triplicate. "A photo of a painting of a person, and the real person hidden somewhere underneath." Meade once said "I paint representational portraits directly on top of the people I am representing. The living, breathing people underneath the paint disappear, overshadowed by the masks of themselves." For a body of work involving submerging her signature style of portraiture in a pool of milk, Meade collaborated with performance artist Sheila Vand.
Magdalena Sawon, owner of the Postmasters Gallery in New York, NY, said of Meade's work, "This is a valid and very interesting contribution to the portrait genre."
Washington Post writer Dan Zak described Meade as "Bold, focused and media-savvy, [she] has welded her political and artistic sides to fashion a campaign for a long-term art career."
Meade has exhibited her artwork at the Saatchi Gallery in London, the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, Galerie Ivo Kamm in Zurich, Gallery for Contemporary Photography Ingo Seufert in Munich and Postmaster’s Gallery in New York, NY.
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