Alexa Meade

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Alexa Meade
Double Take-Alexa Meade.jpg
Meade in the self-portrait Double Take
Born 1986 (age 28–29)
Washington, D.C.
Nationality American
Education Vassar College
Known for Installation art, painting, photography

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.[1] The result is walking, talking optical illusions, 3D paintings that confuse how the eye processes objects in space.[2]

Artistic career[edit]

Early life, education and training[edit]

Alexa Meade was born in Washington, D.C. in 1986.[3] She graduated in 2009 from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY with a bachelor's degree in political science.[4][5] Meade never attended art school and taught herself how to paint.[6] 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.”[7] She decided to become a professional artist in 2009.[8]

Artistic practice[edit]

Alexa paints one of her living subjects

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."[8] 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".[9]

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,"[10] Meade calls attention to the expectations of representational space in the picture plane through displacements in medium[11] and "grapples with the heady conceptual terms at stake between painting and photography".[9] What remains is portraiture in triplicate. "A photo of a painting of a person, and the real person hidden somewhere underneath."[12] 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."[13] For a body of work involving submerging her signature style of portraiture in a pool of milk, Meade collaborated with performance artist Sheila Vand.

Meade's portrait subjects have included such figures of note as triple Grammy-award winning musician Gotye.[14]

Critical response[edit]

Performance on the DC Metro

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."[8]

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."[8]

Notable appearances[edit]

Meade has exhibited her artwork at the Saatchi Gallery in London,[8] the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC,[15] Galerie Ivo Kamm in Zurich,[16] Gallery for Contemporary Photography Ingo Seufert in Munich[17] and Postmaster’s Gallery in New York, NY.[18]

The European Director of the TED Conference, Bruno Giussani, selected Meade to speak at TEDGlobal 2013 in Edinburgh, Scotland.[19][20]


  1. ^ "In Reverse Trompe L'Oeil, Models Are Both Subject and Painting Surface", PBS NewsHour.
  2. ^ Mackay, Mairi (March 19, 2010). "The artist who turns people into paintings". CNN. 
  3. ^ Meade, Alexa. "Curriculum Vitae". Retrieved 29 December 2013. 
  4. ^ "Vassar Info." Vassar College.
  5. ^ Rodriguez, Matthew. "Real Life Paintings." SUNfiltered: Fresh Culture Daily. March 20, 2010.
  6. ^ "Artist Alexa Meade: Full Talk from Wired 2012" October 25, 2012.
  7. ^ "Body art: Alexa Meade's living paintings" The Guardian August 31, 2011.
  8. ^ a b c d e Zak, Dan (March 24, 2010). "Flesh perspective: Alexa Meade's growing body of work is work of the body". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2013-12-06. 
  9. ^ a b Frank, Priscilla (June 12, 2012). "Alexa Meade's Incredible Painted Photographs". Huffington Post. 
  10. ^ Alk, Nell (June 11, 2012). "The Artist in Action". Wall Street Journal. 
  11. ^ "Irvine Contemporary Presents New Gallery Artist Alexa Meade". Retrieved December 6, 2013. 
  12. ^ Cole, Adam (June 8, 2012). "Paintings In (Really) Living Color : The Picture Show". NPR. Retrieved 2013-12-06. 
  13. ^ [1][dead link]
  14. ^ "ORIGIN MAgazine Issue 9 by ORIGIN Magazine". ISSUU. Retrieved 2013-12-06. [dead link]
  15. ^ Cortellucci, Romina S. (2012-06-15). "Participatory Living Paintings – The Trappings of Alexa Meade 'Portraits After 5: Camera-Ready'". Retrieved 2013-12-06. 
  16. ^ "Self-Satisfied by Alexa Meade from Galerie Ivo Kamm Latin American Art". Retrieved 2013-12-06. 
  17. ^ "INTRO15". Depths, Risen, Death Mask. Retrieved 2014-04-18. 
  18. ^ "Alexa Meade Bio". Curiosity. 2010-03-23. Retrieved 2013-12-06. 
  19. ^ "TEDGlobal 2013: Program Guide". Ted Conferences. Retrieved 2013-12-06. 
  20. ^ "Alexa Meade: Your body is my canvas". TEDGlobal 2013. June 2013. Retrieved September 7, 2013. 

External links[edit]