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Surreal Feminist Paintings Ponder the Meaning of Life

Alexandra Levasseur paints fantastical portraits of women that balance naturalism and existentialism.
All images courtesy the artist

Artists have always questioned the world and existence. But Alexandra Levasseur is a painter whose existentialism manifests itself in unpredictable and fantastical ways. In her multi-layered work, Levasseur creates an ethereal backdrop for women who blend into nature or stare off into the distance. "My work is about sadness and compassion, but also about nostalgia and the fear of not being able to stop time," Levasseur tells Creators. "It's about introspection and contemplation."


The Montreal-based painter and filmmaker creates elaborate scenes that evoke the symbolism of late-19th century French painters while referencing scientific and philosophical themes. The result is a gorgeous and seductive mystery that lures viewers in with pastel colors and thought-provoking imagery.

The world that Levasseur paints exists somewhere between fantastical nature and natural fantasy. "The mystical worlds were often coming from memories of my childhood mixed with dreams and ideal comforting environments," she says. "Now I find inspiration in theories of biology, cosmology and physics. I search for the truth in the study of nature and make my own interpretation of them. I find those theories so surreal, they make me imagine other versions of the world."

Levasseur contemplates the same questions that have plagued philosophers and artists for millennia. Her work aims to explore "the anxiety and struggle to understand our short life on earth and find a real powerful meaning to it," she says. The women in Levasseur's paintings work "as a universal symbol to illustrate an array of human emotions," she explains. They are also a conduit for Levasseur to explore existential questions through gender.

Before setting paint to canvas, Levasseur collages instead of sketching. She uses imagery from her own photography or from her searches online or in books to construct "a new place where something mysterious is happening."


She says she will also draw different body parts gesticulating to "communicate best the emotion I want to convey." In the tradition of Rodin before her, the face is not necessarily the most expressive part of Levasseur's portrayals of people. After her "sketching" process is complete, she will glue paper to a wood panel and use acrylics, colored pencils, or oil paints to create her final piece.

Levasseur's work is on display through May 5 at the Athen B. Gallery in Oakland, California. To see more, visit her website here, or follow her on Instagram.


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