Living Art: Photography and Painting Collide

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You might want to take a closer look… the TED Talk begins. The idea that things are not always as they appear is part of what makes photography and other art forms so fascinating. Artist Alexa Meade has taken that idea—that appearances can be deceiving—and has exploded the concept into an innovative artistic technique:

“You might want to take a closer look…there’s more to this painting than meets the eye. What I do in my art is I skip the canvas altogether—If I want to paint your portrait, I’m painting it on you. Physically on you. That also means you’re probably going to end up with an earful of paint. Because I need to paint your ear on your ear. Everything in the scene—the person, the clothes, the chairs, wall—gets covered in a mask of paint that mimics what’s directly below it.”

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As she describes in the above quote, Meade creates a kind of living art by using people as her canvas—not painting something new on them, but painting what she sees in the scene already. She discovered this technique by accident, having originally wanted to paint shadows, capturing a certain configuration of light and darkness before it was gone. But in doing so, she realized: “I had turned my friend into a painting!”

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And not only that, but she had (unintentionally) visually collapsed a three-dimensional scene into a living painting. Interestingly, this process turns one of the goals of many artists–making realistic, three-dimensional images on a flat canvas–on its head.

Since then, Meade has found other unusual canvases to paint on, not just people, but a breakfast of eggs and sausage, or a juicy grapefruit. After completing the paintings, she photographs her work, often making the final result nearly indistinguishable from a traditional 2D painting.

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“I can photograph it from any angle, and it will still look 2D.”

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