Alexa Meade is a painter, but she doesn't paint on traditional canvases or paper. Alexa paints on people and objects. After creating a 3D piece of art, by painting on people, she then photographs them and brings her art back to the 2D plane.

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*A few of the paintings below contain female nudity.

Even knowing the people in her photographs are real people, it is still very tricky to tell when looking at the finished piece.

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This whole project started with her fascination by shadows and the absence of light. She began by painting in shadows. Her painting would remain invisible until the light changed, and that's when her image would be revealed. 

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In her TED Talk, she talks more about how this all began with her friend Bernie: "I wanted to think about what else I could put shadows on, and I thought of my friend Bernie. But I didn't just want to paint the shadows. I also wanted to paint the highlights and create a mapping on his body in greyscale. I had a very specific vision of what this would look like, and as I was painting him, I made sure to follow that very closely. But something kept on flickering before my eyes. I wasn't quite sure what I was looking at. And then when I took that moment to take a step back, magic. I had turned my friend into a painting. I couldn't have foreseen that when I wanted to paint a shadow, I would pull out this whole other dimension, that I would collapse it, that I would take a painting and make it my friend and then bring him back to a painting."
 
"Grape Fruit"

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After Bernie, she started painting on objects. It was difficult to get the paint to stick to all the foods she wanted to paint on, but she was nervous about asking people if she could paint on them. So then, she began painting on herself.

"Double Take"

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A zoomed out shot of "Exposure."

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Then, she began painting on other people.

She did an outdoor exhibit at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery titled "Camera-Ready Color." She set up two painted rooms that each had their own painted person in them. People could then pose behind cut out frames in the wall and be a part of the installation. 

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The two painted people intrude on each other's existence. 

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Here she interacts with her black-and-white painted man in: "Aligned With Alexa."

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"Blue Print" and installation.

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The old man below was one of her favorite models. He even didn't mind her taking him out in public to take pictures.  If you have seen any of her work floating around the internet, even if you didn't know it was hers, it would be pictures of him, such as the two below titled: Transit. Pictures taken on the DC Metro. 

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"Spectacle" and installation. 

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Below, you can see the collaboration she did with Sheila Vand: "MILK: what will you make of me?" She talked about how it started in her TED Talk: "I was teaching myself how to paint in all these different styles, and I wanted to see what else I could do with it. I came together with a collaborator, Sheila Vand,and we had the idea of creating paintings in a more unusual surface, and that was milk. We got a pool. We filled it with milk. We filled it with Sheila. And I began painting. And the images were always completely unexpected in the end, because I could have a very specific image about how it would turn out, I could paint it to match that, but the moment that Sheila laid back into the milk, everything would change."

What she loved most about this project is how it was in constant flux and how she learned to embrace what was happening instead of controlling it. For "Unseen" / "Shape," the paint started coming off of Sheila's arms when she dropped down into the milk, so she hid her arms behind her back. Then the paint started coming off of her face, so she hid her face. After they were all done, they "ended up with something far more elegant than we could have imagined, even though this is essentially the same solution that a frustrated kid uses when he can't draw hands, just hiding them in the pockets."

"Unseen"


"Shape" - this photograph shows her hiding both her arms and face since the milk took off the paint.


"Hesitate" / "Activate"


"Activate"


"Hesitate"


She finished her TED Talk with a great quote that seems to really sum up everything she does quite well:
"When we started out on the milk project, and when I started out, I couldn't have foreseen that I would gofrom pursuing my dream in politics and working at a desk to tripping over a shadow and then turning people into paintings and painting on people in a pool of milk. But then again, I guess it's also not unforeseeable that you can find the strange in the familiar, as long as you're willing to look beyond what's already been brought to light, that you can see what's below the surface, hiding in the shadows, and recognize that there can be more there than meets the eye.”