Alexa Meade in the midst of her installation Become the Masterpiece Credit: Isa Giallorenzo

We can all enjoy art, feel it, reflect upon it, and even participate in creating it. But be it?

That’s what Alexa Meade’s work is about. Part of 29Rooms, a traveling exhibit that just closed its sold-out Chicago stay, Meade’s area included two lively backgrounds and an assortment of garments and accessories for attendees to try on and assume a pose in. You could witness the transformative power of clothes in the process: as they stepped in front of the painted wall, people’s attitudes immediately shifted, becoming more confident and performative. And indeed, “the concept for 29Rooms was to create an activation that allows participants to step into a psychedelic world, shed self-consciousness, dress up and become the work of art,” Meade told me.

Alexa Meade at the Chicago stop of 29Rooms
Alexa Meade at the Chicago stop of 29RoomsCredit: Isa Giallorenzo

A political science major at Vassar who once dreamed of working on Capitol Hill, Meade was taking an art class as an elective when she serendipitously stumbled upon a way of turning 3-D into 2-D by painting shadows and highlights onto the subjects of her installations. She calls her style “reverse trompe l’oeil.” As she has continued to explore, in her words, “the different ways that visual perception can be manipulated,” her work has been exhibited in prestigious locations such as the Grand Palais des Champs-Élysées in Paris, the Saatchi Gallery in London, and the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. It’s also featured in Ariana Grande’s video for her single “God Is a Woman” and in a TED Talk, “Your Body Is My Canvas,” that’s quickly approaching three million views.

YouTube video

Chicago was the final stop of a tour that began last September in New York. You can see more videos at the website,; more of Alexa Meade’s work follows.

Credit: Isa Giallorenzo

Credit: Isa Giallorenzo