Living Paintings: Reverse Trompe L’Oeil by Alexa Meade

There are many immensely talented artists out there who go to great lengths to make their paintings look as realistic as possible, mimicking the nuances of three-dimensional form, texture and lighting. But it’s rare that the opposite is true – wherein an artist seeks to make reality look like a painting. Meet Alexa Meade, who paints subjects not on canvas but right on top of themselves.

Meade’s thick acrylic brushstrokes turn living subjects into exaggerated, flat, painterly versions of themselves that are so accurately rendered two-dimensional, it’s difficult to tell immediately that there’s a real person under all that pigment. When the subject’s environment is painted as well, the effect is so complete that onlookers are stunned when what looks like some kind of painted sculpture suddenly moves and breathes.

“My painting technique pushes the boundaries of perception, compressing 3D space into a 2D plane and effectively blurring the lines between art and life,” Meade told Juxtapoz in a recent interview.

“Typically, when you look at a painting, you’re looking at an artist’s interpretation of the subject painted on canvas. In my artistic interpretation of the subject, I paint directly on top of the subject I am referencing rather than using canvas. Essentially, my art imitates life – on top of life. For example, with Portrait of a Self-Portrait you are simultaneously looking at a portrait I painted of myself, a photo I took of myself, and at me.”

Meade didn’t go to art school – in fact, she graduated from Vassar College with a degree in political science. When asked if her background in politics has influenced her art, she explained slyly, “My projects spin reality.”