L.A.-based artist Alexa Meade’s 2D paintings reverse the Trompe L’oeil traditional technique

By on December 31, 2015

L.A.-based artist Alexa Meade takes the tradition of Trompe L’oeil — the Renaissance painting technique in which objects appear real — and reverses the process, turning the human body into seemingly two-dimensional tableaus and incredible portraits.

“Unlike a traditional Trompe-L’oeil painting which tricks the eye into thinking a 2D canvas might be a real 3D space,” she says, “I do the opposite: I take the 3D world and create the illusion that it is a 2D painting.”

In this video above, you can see how Meade applies bold brush strokes reminiscent of mid-20th-century painting styles, and how her subjects appear flattened, as if painted on canvas, even when viewed from different angles.

Meade’s living acrylic paintings have been exhibited at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, The Saatchi Gallery in London, and the Pinacotheque Museum in Paris.

Alexa Meade takes an innovative approach to art. Not for her a life of sketching and stretching canvases. Instead, she selects a topic and then paints it–literally. She covers everything in a scene–people, chairs, food, you name it–in a mask of paint that mimics what’s below it. In this eye-opening talk Meade shows off photographs of some of the more outlandish results, and shares a new project involving people, paint and milk.

Here’s her official bio:

Alexa Meade (b. 1986 in Washington DC) is a Los Angeles-based artist who is known for her portraits painted on the human body, making people into seemingly 2-D works of art. Her work has been exhibited worldwide and received critical acclaim from CNN, Wired, NPR, the Wall Street Journal, and more.

She has lectured at the California Institute of the Arts, UC-Berkeley, Apple, Adobe, and National Geographic London. Her TED Global talk “Your Body is my Canvas,” has been viewed over two million times. Growing up in Washington D.C., Alexa originally carved out a neat path in the life of politics. She interned on Capitol Hill and worked for the 2008 Obama campaign in Colorado as a press staffer.

After graduating from Vassar College with Honors in Political Science, Alexa decided that what she really wanted to be was an artist. She had a simple idea to put black paint over natural shadows, which evolved into something much larger. By painting the mapping of light directly on top of a 3D space, Alexa was able to create the illusion that the world was a 2D painting. Alexa travels the world creating art installations and commissioned portraits.

Alexa plays with a lot of projects on the side. She is collaborating with scientists researching spacetime at the Perimeter Institute For Theoretical Physics. Alexa is making a series of magical paintings with David Blaine. She is transforming her home into a “Fun House” with Chris Hughes, developing a line of toys, and volunteering in the art program at the Braille Institute.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.