Alexa Meade Turns People Into 2D Art By Painting On Them, And You Can Watch Her Do It Live

"A Proposal — We Cross The Street," by artist Alexa Meade. (Courtesy Alexa Meade)

L.A.-based artist Alexa Meade turns her subjects into works of art by flattening out the real world. She can take a photograph of her subjects from any angle — and they'll look flat.

"I paint on people and three-dimensional spaces in a way to make them look like two-dimensional paintings," Alexa told us.

We talked with Alexa as she was in her studio painting swim trunks for her live painting event this weekend at Beverly Cañon Gardens.

She's a self-taught artist. Alexa always wanted to changed the world — but she thought she would do it through politics. After studying political science, she started exploring art and ended up taking a hard left turn into a different career. It surprised a lot of the people in her life.

"Lola Baila," by artist Alexa Meade. (Courtesy Alexa Meade)

"I was an artsy kid, but I didn't think I had what it took to be an artist," Alexa said. "My parents also did not like the idea of me being a professional artist, so I thought that that was something that was off-limits while I was growing up."

She developed her style thanks to her interest in shadows.

"I wanted to know what it would look like to put black paint on the grass where the shadows were. And then I realized that, when I did that, it created interesting things with spatial depth perception," Alexa said. "So I moved to then painting shadows on humans and mapping the light, and I realized that I could make a three-dimensional space appear to be a two-dimensional painting."

Alexa's an East Coaster, but she fell in love with L.A. when she came out to work on a project with performance artist Sheila Vand, painting on her before she went into a swimming pool filled with milk.

"She was in L.A., and it was my first time really getting a taste of the city. And I realized instantly that this was home, this was where I needed to be," Alexa said.

The most inspiring part of L.A. for this light-based artist: our sunlight.

"With the quality of light here, the crispness of the shadows on the ground is something, just walking down the street, and all of a sudden, looking down, I find more inspiration than I could ever find even looking up," Alexa said.

She's revisiting that swimming-pool motif in her live painting event this weekend in Beverly Hills. She says she'll be painting a pool scene in bold, bright, vibrant colors.

"There's going to be two painted models, and people will be able to step into their world of the three-dimensional painting," Alexa said.

People will also be able to put on painted garments and items that have been painted that they can wrap themselves in, making them a part of the scene.

A behind-the-scenes photo from "Risen," by artist Alexa Meade. (Photo courtesy Alexa Meade)

There's an excitement to painting something live, Alexa said.

"Especially in front of an audience, it becomes a performance. I have to think fast on my feet, I have to improvise, and I really have no choice but to be fully absorbed and one with the creation of the art," Alexa said. "I find that, in those types of situations, I oftentimes create my best work — in part because I have to pull something out of me that I might not have gone in there with the intention of doing, and I had no opportunity to really fully think it out or test drive it, but intuition kicks in. And I find that when I allow my intuition to guide my brushstrokes, I make the most intriguing work."

The project with Vand also inspired how Alexa painted Ariana Grande as part of Grande's new music video, "God Is A Woman." The video utilizes a variety of styles — including some Georgia O'Keefe-inspired risqué imagery:

The art expresses a different part of her than her old life pursuing politics, she said, but her political side still comes through — either subconsciously or more overtly. For example, she did an award-winning short film about gun violence and racial tensions in America called Color of Reality.

"It was really cool to be able to make a work of art that had a political impact, even larger than I had imagined that I could make back when I was thinking that politics was the way to pursue that type of impact," Alexa said.

Her work deals a lot with identity, Alexa said.

"I'm picking a human being, and I'm painting on top of them a layer of interpretation," Alexa said. "When it comes to something like race, gender, or these other things that are really part of somebody's identity, while painting with them, I work with them to get a feel for how they present themselves to this world, and how can my brushstrokes amplify that and pull out an essence at the same time."

Alexa's work has been seen everywhere from music videos to advertisements — she even did a TED Talk about what she does.

She also has a magical project on the way — she's collaborating on a series of paintings with illusionist David Blaine.

Her event later this month will be an Old Hollywood-themed work of art outside the Paley Center. You can see more from these events on her social media, on Twitter and Instagram @AlexaMeadeArt.

You can see her live painting on Saturday, Aug. 4 and Saturday, Aug. 18 as part of Beverly Hills' BOLD Summer Nights events. BOLD Summer Nights runs Thursday through Saturday nights until Aug. 25.


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