The Artist Behind Ariana Grande’s New Video Is Making Humans into Paintings in Beverly Hills

Ariana Grande has been blowing up our feed lately with her quickie engagement, her style transformations and her bangin’ new song, “God Is a Woman.” The earworm single is accompanied by a video that’s all about art. Along with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci references, there’s a recurring image of the singer covered in body paint, half-submerged in a colorful, milky pool. That image is the work of Alexa Meade, a painter with a Lincoln Heights studio who incorporates humans into her work. She’s dreaming up new installations for the BOLD Beverly Hills festival on August 4 and 18, and here’s her story.

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First, The Backstory

The “God Is a Woman” video was born when video director Dave Meyers reached out to Meade with an idea inspired by her previous milk-bath-based collaboration with actress Sheila Vand. Part of his inspiration to paint Grande in a huge bath of swirling colors was artist Georgia O’Keeffe. It took 40 minutes to paint the singer’s body, and then the crew spent about 20 minutes filming the scenes with her in the bath.

Alexa Meade

Now She’s All Over Beverly Hills

As part of the BOLD festival (Beverly Hills Open Later Days), Meade will create a pool-themed work in the Beverly Canon Gardens on August 4. Then, on August 18, she’ll craft an “Old Hollywood” vibe outside the Paley Center for Media in honor of a new Marilyn Monroe exhibit.

Expect Major Body Paint

Meade typically paints the clothes and background of her work in advance; it might take her two to five days to paint an entire three-dimensional scene. Then, when the model shows up, she spends 20 minutes to an hour painting them (with special nontoxic acrylic paint) for the installation, which is then photographed.

Alexa Meade

And What Does It All Mean, Anyway?

Meade says her initial inspiration for painting on people was an interest in shadows—she noticed that painting shadows onto people created a special skewed depth perception that made the world appear two-dimensional. She has experimented with pushing the limits of this optical illusion through variations on the theme, including painting people in black and white and putting them in front of a colored background.