Alexa Meade’s work uses mixed media to transform the subject into painting. Using acrylic paint, she transforms the skin into a canvas, by tracing the areas of shadow and light. Her Transit 24″x18″ on DC Metro, by juxtaposing one of her ‘painted men’ against the ‘normal’ faces particularly highlights the dominance painting once had over portraiture.
She attempts to reverse photography’s replacement over painting by combining the two in an attempt to highlight how both are art forms in themselves. When discussing her inspiration, Meade claims that “I was fascinated by the absence of light, and wanted to find a way to give it materiality”. Not only does she use the printed photograph to solidify shadows, but fixes this with paint. Meade’s technique is another example of how mixed media can unconventionally enhance the authority of the sitter in the photo.
The muse in Transit 24″x18″ on DC Metro is particularly pensive. His age-lines and slightly fatigued frown are fixed by the acrylic paint. His domination of the foreground may be a subversive comment by Meade that her new method is at the forefront of our modern age and will give us a new approach to portraiture. Her ‘new ideology’ is contrasted the choice of an ageing man as the subject.
The crowd in the background is blurred, but recognisable. Their lack of focus adds to the effectiveness of Meade’s muse, as they lose detail where he gains it. The whole tone of the piece is one of intrigue, both at the muse’s facial expression and overall appearance in comparison with the general public on the metro.
Activity is central to Meade’s work, and can be summarised through journey – literally and physically. Meade begins with the activity of painting on the man’s skin, to leading him to the metro to be examined by the public and shooting him. Trust is an essential between Meade and her sitters, and despite the muse’s expression, he seems content and indifferent to the stares.
This form of unconventional photography is captures our raw expression to new perspective and how we react when the boundaries are broken between us and ‘the artwork’. The dimensions are unclear, as the exact technique used is difficult to decipher unless the process is known. Thus, it is the public that gives Meade’s technique away. Sometimes, reactions to the portrait as just as important as the portrait itself.