By Ashley Troost>Senior>English>University of Maryland, Photos by Alexa Meade
Have you ever examined a portrait and found yourself wondering what it’s thinking? If you’re looking at one of Alexa Meade’s portraits, you should.
Meade, a 23-year-old Vassar graduate, paints directly onto people and objects with acrylics, creating the illusion of a 2-D painting while working with 3-D results. Her acrylic models walk off the canvas and into the everyday world, from sitting in the kitchen to riding on the D.C Metro. These walking works of art have most people doing a double-take at what seems to be a painting come to life.
In the past month, word has spread quickly of Meade’s living paintings. “One of my long lost friends sent me a message telling me my paintings were on this blog called kottke.org. I didn’t think it was anything special, but then more blogs were picking up my work,” Meade explained. “It had this really amazing, organic growth from a lot of people spreading [my work] around.” Within days, her living paintings spread from Facebook wallposts to an article in The Washington Post.
Meade’s interest in art began at a young age, but her parents deterred her from pursuing it as a career. Instead, she majored in politics and took sculpture classes on the side. During her final year at Vassar, Meade realized her overwhelming passion for art and started working in the studio 40 hours a week. After graduating last May and rejecting job offer after job offer to work in politics, Meade is finally making a name for herself as an artist.
The artist begins her projects by first painting the walls, clothing and furniture with acrylics the day before she plans to photograph her work and paints her model the day of the shoot, which can take anywhere from a few hours to a good portion of the day. “It’s kind of like starting a paper the night before it’s due and you have to push through it,” she says. While she paints, Meade listens to a specific playlist with the songs in a particular order. “It starts out really strong and the tempo helps me zone out.” Although she wouldn’t spill details of the playlist, Meade said she’s a fan of Hot Chip, Architecture in Helsinki and The Velvet Underground.
So what exactly is her inspiration behind these living paintings? “I try to keep it somewhat vague,” she explains. “The original thing that inspired me was shadows, because they are so temporary. I wanted to create a permanent memorial for this temporal thing.” Meade first started painting on grass, objects, people and then entire settings. In May 2009, she had a moment where everything started to come together, but states that her work is constantly evolving in many different areas.
Meade has most recently been asked to work on a music video, but she politely declined. “At this point in my career, I’m developing my own point of view and statement rather than pushing someone else’s project.” She is, however, considering her artwork for non-profits. “I would like to do things with my art that would help enrich other people’s lives.” Where will this mysterious artist take her living paintings next? “I’m exploring more video possibilities with my painting techniques. I have tons of little things I’m doing right now but I don’t want to reveal them yet.”
To see more of Meade’s work and to view gallery dates, visit www.alexameade.com