Meet the Body Painting Artist Disrupting Portraiture

Known for creating the illusion that real-life people and places are inside the world of a 2D painting, Alexa Meade was among those honored at the 2017 Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards.

by Kara Weisenstein
May 4 2017, 8:27pm

Most painters commit pigment to canvas, portraying static scenes from a specific viewpoint. When Alexa Meade picks up a brush, it's to paint on people. But unlike body painting found at festivals, Meade's living, breathing compositions are a radical approach to portraiture. By painting her models and their surroundings, the artist subverts reality, tricking the eye into thinking 3D space is actually a 2D painting.

It's an innovative practice that's earned Meade worldwide renown; to date, she's exhibited her work at The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, the Grand Palais in Paris, and the United Nations, to name a few. Now, Meade is getting institutional recognition for her unique art-making methods: during the Tribeca Film Festival, she was among the dozens of visionaries honored at the 2017 Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards (TDIA), along with game changers in fields like robotics, environmentalism, and journalism.

Meade got her start as an artist by subverting the expectations her parents had for her. "My parents thought their daughter would have a real job and work in politics and sit at a desk all day. And then I decided I wanted to be an artist, and that was not at all approved. I had to pretend to be looking for a 'real job,' because that would be too disruptive to the family to have someone be doing something so outside of the norm," Meade tells Creators. "When people asked me what I was doing, I'd say, 'Oh I'm interviewing for jobs,' rather than say, 'I'm painting on a pineapple in my parents' basement.' A lot of my early subjects were pieces of fruit."

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