lexa Meade was born on September 3, 1986 in Washington, D.C.. She graduated in 2009 from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY with a bachelor’s degree in political science. However, Meade never attended art school nor has she ever taken advanced painting courses. In August 2008, Meade began to experiment with painting on non-traditional objects. After 9 months of experimenting, she was able to develop a process for painting on people and unveiled her “Reverse Trompe L’Oeil” installation in October, 2009.
The original idea for Meade’s work came from her fascination with how the sun casts moving shadows. She began to experiment with painting shadows onto moving people, and discovered that the visual effect still worked even if people moved from their original light source. Alexa Meade’s art creates a perceptual shift in how the viewer experiences and interprets spatial relationships. Meade once said “I paint representational portraits directly on top of the people I am representing. The models are transformed into embodiments of the artist’s interpretation of their essence. When captured on film, the living, breathing people underneath the paint disappear, overshadowed by the masks of themselves.” Meade also believes that “what one experiences cannot always be interpreted at face value; seeing is not necessarily believing.”
Meade applies acrylic paint to the surfaces of people, objects, and walls in a broad brushstroke that mimics the appearance of brushwork in a painting in a technique that she innovated. Her “approach to portraiture includes painting the faces and bodies of her models–fabricating additional shadows across cheekbones or slathering a thick layer of paint atop eyebrows–then photographing them.” On Al Jazeera English, Meade demonstrated her technique as she painted her subject for Blue Print.
She described the process as “painting a portrait of somebody on top of himself.” When the three-dimensional tableau is viewed in a two-dimensional photograph, it appears to be an oil painting. Most find the effect so convincing that they do not realize that the photograph is not of a painting but rather of a live installation. In one installation portrait of a man, Meade painted only his upper torso against a red background, leaving the rest of his body unpainted for the viewer. To further blur the line between reality and illusion, Meade “projected a live video feed of her painted model into a picture frame on the wall. Gallery patrons interacted with both the painted man sitting in the chair and the living painting next to him on the wall.”
Artdaily.org Art Daily described Meade’s photographs as photographs are at once records of a performance, a portrait session, and a reflection on three- and two-dimensional representational spaces. Meade calls attention to the expectations of representational space in the picture plane through displacements in medium: she presents not simply photography and painting as instances of two-dimensional picture planes, but transforms painted bodies and objects by presenting them as cohabitating within three-dimensional photographic space.”