Alexa Meade: The Installation Artist Behind Ariana Grande's Body Paint in "God Is a Woman" Music Video


The inclusion of fine art in areas of popular culture has become more frequent recently, highlighting an artistic expression that is often overlooked in contemporary society.

American installation artist, Alexa Meade (b. 1986), who is primarily known for portraits of people in which she utilizes the human body as her canvas, was commissioned by Ariana Grande for her latest music video “God is a Woman.” On July 13th, the video debuted showcasing the fusion of fine art and pop culture.

PHOTO: Ariana Grande /  Instagram

PHOTO: Ariana Grande / Instagram

In some of Grande's previous music videos, she shows an interest in the historical principles of color theory and architectural design, as they were main components in the visual aspects of her videos. For "God Is a Woman," Meade painted parts of Grande's body with purple, blue, and pale yellow non-toxic acrylic paint. During the video, the painted singer also laid in a pool of milk. 

The work was inspired by Meade's collaboration with actress and performance artist Sheila Vand called "Milk: What Will You Make of Me" from 2012, which explored the fluid alteration of form (Figure 1). In Grande's music video, the viewer can watch the interplay of the milk she lays in and the paint that has come off her body in the continuous transforming ripples, swirls, and various other organic shapes that enclose the singer and respond to her movement.

Meade graduated with a degree in political science from Vassar College in 2009 and planned on a career in politics. However, a project in an art class initiated her interest in creating art, thus she taught herself how to paint and began her career as an artist. That same year, Meade painted her sister, Julie, sitting in the corner of a room for her first large-scale installation at an exhibit in Baltimore, Maryland (Figure 2). The perspective of the photograph is from her sister, who is covered with dark shapes, areas of red tones, and several variations of skin tones. The contrast between the dark and light areas defining Julie’s body and the naturalism of her pose prompts her portrait to come alive as she sleeps.

FIGURE 1:  Alexa Meade Art  ( Head Trip , 2012)

FIGURE 1: Alexa Meade Art (Head Trip, 2012)

A different image of the installation, which combines Julie with the outside world, produces an extraordinary interaction between art and the viewer -- fantasy and real life (Figure 3). This brings a whole new meaning to the relationship a person can have with a painted portrait since this work is not only three-dimensional, but is also a living being.

FIGURE 2:  Alexa Meade Art  ( Natura Morta , 2009)

FIGURE 2: Alexa Meade Art (Natura Morta, 2009)

In 2016, Meade was commissioned by Dan Levine to paint him and his girlfriend Christina Cordova for his proposal of marriage. This image has an illusion of the couple partly blending in with the off-white background and coming forward at the same time. The use of black and white paint on both figures creates an electric energy that travels from his kneeling legs, to his right arm holding the ring out, to her left arm, up to her surprised and ecstatic expression, which connects back to his overjoyed expression.

FIGURE 3:  Alexa Meade Art

FIGURE 3: Alexa Meade Art

The love that these two feel for each other is evident and quite beautiful. In a photo taken moments before the proposal, the painted couple is seen walking down the street (Figure 4). The couple is juxtaposed against the bright yellow building, the green trees in the top corners, and the red crosswalk light while they correspond to the white and grey crosswalk and the white and black colors being worn by the people behind them. In a remarkable fashion, the couple appear to transcend the reality surrounding them and exist in their own world of black and white.

FIGURE 4:  Alexa Meade Art  ( A Proposal , 2016)

FIGURE 4: Alexa Meade Art (A Proposal, 2016)

In Alexa Meade's exploration of creating art, she developed a new way to showcase paintings by placing painted bodies in public environments to provoke a reaction from the collision of the two  worlds. Also, in her gallery installations, she generated painted spaces for her subjects to come alive. Her contribution to the art world has transformed the creative process of painting the human body which revolutionized the relationship the public could experience with art. Ariana Grande incorporating the visionary mind of Meade in her music video is a powerful and innovative partnership. Not only does it expose Meade's work to millions of people and award her the recognition she deserves, the video also gives millions of viewers the opportunity to witness an extraordinary domain of fine art and possibly inspire some to venture into a life of creating art.

Lead Image Credit: Ariana Grande / Instagram