Opening Night at Wonderland Dreams by Alexa Meade photo by @mike_monaghan “A dream is not reality but who can say which is what?” _ Lewis Carroll Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Wander through a maze of
“A dream is not reality but who can say which is what?” _ Lewis Carroll Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Wander through a maze of floating neon streamers and imagine yourself as a child falling down a rabbit hole into a fantasy world of anthropomorphic creatures. Walls vibrate as mushrooms reveal hidden messages.
Become increasingly curious as you explore a series of fantastically interconnected pieces, entirely and lavishly hand-painted to evoke various scenes from Lewis Carroll’s beloved classic 1865 children’s tale, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Your perspective shifts quickly, as you navigate the ability through keyhole, larger-than-life thrones, and portals to your own wayward childish fantasy.
Welcome to Alexa Meade dreams of wonderland, presented in partnership with Catching Flights, which captured attention before the pandemic with its first immersive Rosè Mansion experience. Open Wednesday through Sunday through April 2023, you can navigate the serpentine, surreal world of Alice through around 30 rooms accessible via a rainbow-mirrored staircase. Head upstairs to a themed cafe and wine bar after cosplaying in card-playing palaces, crazy tea parties, a New York-inspired alley, and pose through portable photo frames in a living gallery .
Meade and his team of around 20 assistant painters spent approximately two months transforming a closed Best Buy on Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan into a truly immersive 26,000 square foot exhibit, using his 3D painting style to create a 2D dreamscape.
“My team and I worked 24 hours a day, six days a week, nonstop. We didn’t just paint the walls, we painted the floors and ceilings. We painted all the furniture, the undersides of the couches,” Meade said. “We have painted thousands of individual sets. We painted clothes and costumes for guests, we painted cupcakes, giant mushrooms, life-size flamingos and playing cards.
Meade planned the entire project quickly but thoroughly, creating sketches, as well as a single-spaced 78-page document capturing “all my ideas that I wanted to execute. And it was written in paragraph form, so it’s not just a long list of bulleted points, but really thoughtful ideas,” she said. In the end, about three pages were incorporated into the prodigious space.
The exhibition’s fungible feel grew out of the “mood boards” created by Meade to develop depth and scale, layering color palettes, textured brushstrokes and a tactile array of custom fabrications.
Even before the pandemic, the art world began largely reinventing surrealism for a new era. Plan for safer times to Alice: more curious and more curious To resume its Sainsbury Gallery as an immersive experience last year, London’s V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum) had no idea how upended the real world would be. The V&A explored the titular character’s journey through art and culture for 155 years in its multi-sensory exhibit incorporating stage costumes, high fashion and music across genres.
Meade also invites her audience to engage performatively, choosing from a multitude of accessories and hand-painted jackets, coats and hats, which paint us into her canvas. It is a dynamic work of art that evolves as we gasp and giggle in newly awakened consciousness.
We emerge from the pandemic with a renewed appreciation for surrealism and fantastic art, which have guided us through isolation by reconciling the reciprocal expanse between reality and the dream world. Surrealism endures, providing comfort and excitement through our collective challenges and triumphs. Influenced by Sigmund Freud’s theories of the unconscious, surrealism is as relevant today as the urgent need for the dying practice of psychoanalysis. The surrealists straddled the worlds of reason and madness, objectivity and subjectivity.
A century after its beginnings, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland grew its appreciation among older readers who experimented with psychedelic drugs, imprinted forever in our collective consciousness through ubiquitous cultural touchstones such as the 1967 Jefferson Airplane psychedelic anthem White Rabbit. Now widely touted as a treatment for a myriad of conditions such as major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, severe depression, and opiate addiction, the global psychedelics market is expected to grow into an industry of 8 billion by 2029, according to a recent report from Data Bridge Market Research.
Meade takes on a timeless and timely task with dreams of wonderland, embracing current trends and giving us a truly immersive experience. Projecting masterpieces onto the walls of cavernous interior spaces cannot compete with Meade’s original works of art that envelop us and draw us into his creative imagination.
“In this exhibit, guests who enter the immersive exhibit can embody the spirit of Alice and explore a world that lies somewhere between art and reality and everything in between,” Meade said. “The normal rules of logic crumble and you’re thrust into a surreal, psychedelic, and downright magical otherworldly journey.”
Although she does not remember reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as a child, Meade says she has fond memories of the 1951 fantasy musical comedy animated film Alice in Wonderland produced by Walt Disney Productions.
“I re-read the book several times while (conceptualizing) dreams of wonderland. The text is so rich and despite being written with a child audience in mind, it is absolutely spellbinding and captivating for any adult let alone or even more for an artist,” Meade happily recalls. “This exhibit first launched on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills in 2018. At that time, the title of the exhibit was Immersion in Wonderland. Many people who came to the first exhibition thought it was alice in wonderland thematic, in part because it was so surreal to walk into a painting and explore that 3D space as if it were a 2D world.
The pandemic has stifled plans for Immersion in Wonderland to make it to New York in 2020, but the expanded iteration came together quickly.
Meade has focused primarily on portraiture for the past decade, “making humans my canvas,” she said. “For my living canvases, I often have a painted installation space where that person might be sitting in a painted chair in front of a painted wall and floor. For dreams of wonderland, I took this to the next level. I didn’t just paint the walls and floors of the space, but the entire interior of the building.
“While there are art historical figures that inspire me, for the most part I just find myself fascinated by light and shadow and the perception of space,” Meade explained. “I draw more inspiration from science than from the canon of portraiture or painting as a medium. My style of art can be applied to virtually any subject matter, be it portraiture and painting on live models or creating still lifes.
In the words of the English polymath who first welcomed us into this absurd world, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”
Luckily for you, almost any subway or MTA bus will take you to dreams of wonderland. To buy tickets before your visit.
“Imagination is the only weapon in the war with reality.”