At first glance, a couple shaded in black and white look like graffiti art you’d typically find painted on the buildings of San Francisco. But upon closer inspection, you’ll see the woman’s hair blowing in the breeze just as the man turns his head. This street art is alive. 

Artist Alexa Meade transforms three-dimensional objects into what has been described as “living art.” While many artists aim to make their paintings more realistic, Meade has become known for turning real physical spaces, people, and objects into flat paintings. The video above reveals how Meade applies paint onto two models’ faces, hair, arms, legs, and clothes—shading in light and shadow to make the couple look like they walked off of a canvas. 

“I don’t paint on canvas. I paint directly in three-dimensional space,” Meade explains in a video by Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, where she was an artist-in-residence. “In my work I’m able to transform almost any three-dimensional space into something that appears 2-D.”

In other installations of her living art, Meade has painted entire rooms, vehicles, and sets to look like chalkboard, gallery paintings, and pop art. To create this illusion, Meade doesn’t use Photoshop or post-processing. She simply plays with “the light and shadow within a space.”  

See more of her living artwork in the reel below.

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