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ART / INTERVIEWS / PAINTING & ILLUSTRATION

Alexa Meade the Illusionist: ‘Immersed in Wonderland’

Alexa Meade is an artist best known for her beautifully creative portraits, painted directly onto her subject matter, which are most often humans- within her painted installations. Her two dimensional artwork is painted to feel like a three dimensional experience. Alexa’s paintings come to life once the viewer realizes the subject matter is a living breathing person making them then question what is “real” and what is not. Alexa worked with Ariana Grande on her “God is a Woman” music video as well as being a TED Speaker and created the video “Color of Reality” featuring Jon Boogz and Lil Buck among other major accolades. Just last night Alexa hosted a Zoom event titled “DIY Party with Alexa Meade” in which all attendees created a piece of art alongside with her direction and guidance. I painted a fabulous pair of shoes!

I had the pleasure of watching Alexa Meade paint live for Bayer aspirin for their campaign #yourhiddenrisks at the NYC Oculus in February. Alexa painted three survivors into their personal backgrounds and the messages were very clear. These 3 women were given a second chance at life and Alexa wanted to showcase their stories through her art.

Learn more about her work and her solo exhibition ‘Immersed in Wonderland’, on view March 13 to June 28 in Midtown Manhattan. Like the Bayer event at the Oculus, the artwork will be interactive and people will be able to step into the painting and become part of the art. You can see more at immersedinwonderland.com.

With my work, something gets very lost in the translation from the three-dimensional installation space to the two-dimensional page or screen that goes beyond what happens with art in a more traditional media.

I know that you are inspired by Robert Irwin- what about his work moved you? Is it about the depth and space that lies between your subjects and their surroundings that you felt a connection to his work? The space we “feel” yet cannot pinpoint what exactly that is with words?

I am inspired by Robert Irwin’s use of light and shadow. When I initially came up with this idea for painting on people, it was not based on the idea of painting. It was based on the idea of perception of space, which is something that Robert Irwin has created incredible artwork around. Rather than being inspired by other painters, I find myself more drawn to those who play with perception, which can sometimes be installation artists.

Alexa Meade 'Immersed in Wonderland'
Painting by Alexa Meade, Photography by the Maxwells: Philip & Ruby June.

AR/VR are being used in more and more artwork- what do you suppose will be next? I love the idea that artists are using AR in their murals on buildings. I have downloaded many apps for this purpose- have you had an interest in taking this concept a step further? Having an audience see “what lies beneath” or watch bts footage while actually looking at your art in real time?

One of the things that’s exciting about using AR and VR in my art is that it opens up the possibility for people to be able to experience it in the round without physically having to be present. For most types of artwork there’s a different experience between physically being there, standing in front of the canvas or the sculpture, than there is from viewing it on a screen or, let’s say, a reproduction in a book.

With my work, something gets very lost in the translation from the three-dimensional installation space to the two-dimensional page or screen that goes beyond what happens with art in a more traditional media. Having my art in VR allows it to preserve the three-dimensionality in the documentation of the work, presenting it more true to life than had previously been possible. Augmented reality allows people to become part of the artwork in a new way, especially without being present at an installation.

When I have live installations, people are able to put on painted clothes and sometimes they’re even painted as live models. VR allows people from anywhere to have that experience of having painted clothes and perhaps even brush strokes on their faces.

My type of artwork is time-based, especially when I’m painting on a model. They are literally there one moment and gone the next. It can happen as fast as somebody just strolling down the street passing by a mural. That painted person has been added to the existing mural, and then just as quickly subtracted from it.

Being that I have interviewed hundreds of “street” artists and you create this through literal art- do you ever desire to collaborate with muralists you see around you?

One of my favorite things about street art is the ephemerality of it, that it’s here one day and gone the next. Another artist might come and paint over it or someone might add to it or create other work that is in dialogue to it that it evolves over time.

My type of artwork is time-based, especially when I’m painting on a model. They are literally there one moment and gone the next. It can happen as fast as somebody just strolling down the street passing by a mural. That painted person has been added to the existing mural, and then just as quickly subtracted from it.

I’ve yet to do any close collaborations with street artists, but I’d be really interested in exploring that. Thus far, I’ve been having my models walk amongst found street art, things that are existing as part of the city’s landscape.

Alexa Meade 'Immersed in Wonderland'
Painting by Alexa Meade, Photography by the Maxwells: Philip & Ruby June.

In my artwork, I’m hiding people in plain sight. The real human is there, but your eyes might not see them — even though I have painted them to be bolder, more vibrant, and more stylized than reality.

How do you make the decision as to what corporate clients you collaborate with? This one today is very informative and through your work, a very helpful message will be both seen and heard. What about Bayer made you say yes to this collaboration?

Many of my favorite types of artworks have been collaborations; whether it’s collaborating with dancers, other artists, scientists, mathematicians, or if it’s with companies, or even medical patients.

I painted heart attack survivors for the Hidden Risks Campaign about steps to take after you’ve survived a heart attack to prevent another cardiac event. We were able to set up an installation in the Oculus building in New York City and have heart attack survivors’ stories really be front and center, having people encounter them in the art installation in a very public place in which hundreds of thousands of people pass through every single day. Part of the messaging around Bayer’s Hidden Risks campaign is that you could be carrying this risk around of having another heart attack, but it’s just not something that could be as visible on the surface.

In my artwork, I’m hiding people in plain sight. The real human is there, but your eyes might not see them — even though I have painted them to be bolder, more vibrant, and more stylized than reality. There’s something about the tangibility that can’t be alluded to unless you take a closer look.

Alexa Meade for the heart attack survivors Bayer Aspirin Hidden Risks Campaign
Alexa Meade for the heart attack survivors Bayer Aspirin Hidden Risks Campaign
Alexa Meade ariana grande god is a woman
Collaboration with Ariana Grande for “God is a Woman”

I have been a fan of yours for years so seeing you work with Lil’Buck was fantastic. Then Ariana Grande was a bit of a surprise for me and beautifully executed. Working with other creatives must be very inspiring. Who inspires you in the other areas of the performing arts?

I’ve been really lucky to get to work on some really cool projects. Painting Ariana Grande for her “God is a Woman” music video was really fun, in part because it harkens back to a previous collaboration I had done with performance artist, Sheila Vand. I had painted on Sheila and she went into a pool of milk and then the colors dripped off her body and the paint swirled all around her to form these beautiful patterns. It was really a process of exploration with Sheila that led us to the painting in milk practice. Then getting to see how, years later, that informed a pop star’s music video. I’m really thankful for the Alexa // Sheila collaboration.

One of the special things about collaboration is that it opens up new doors and new branches that allow you to see things in a different way than you would get from just going deeper within yourself. It’s going broader into the world and seeing a different picture that now you can paint.

I’m currently exploring a collaboration with a spoken word poet for a project that combines performance, painting, and poetry all together. I’m really excited to embark on this project as it’s a way to give voice to the medium of painting, which has otherwise been in not only static but also silence. A painting can have a message, but it may not have the sense of hearing integrated into it. That’s why I’m so excited to merge spoken word poetry with painting — to really give painting a voice.

FROM BAYER // By going to YourHiddenRisk.com, everyone can learn more about their risk factors for a heart attack and see what they would look like “hidden” in an Alexa Meade painting. At YourHiddenRisk.com you can create a selfie for posting on Facebook or Instagram. For every selfie shared with #YourHiddenRisk, Bayer will donate $1.00 to Mended Hearts or WomenHeart* up to $50,000.**

Alexa Meade Social Media Accounts

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

About Author

Having interviewed over 150 artists from around the world over the past three years has been a wonderful experience. I have learned so much from the art community. I live and breathe art, literally. Art is my oxygen. Art is my passion. I am also a Mother to 2 teenagers living in New York City. As you could imagine, I wear many hats. I wouldn't have it any other way.

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