Written by Laura Shirk
Brushing Down the Female Experience
A quick review of her artist statement (and/or body of work) and it’s obvious that compared to the average 19-year-old, Alexandra Grounds sees the world differently. She is not only aware of the shared challenges that young women face in the current social climate, but also advocates for change via creativity and conversation. Given the continually evolving #MeToo movement, Grounds’ artwork could not be more timely – or representative of the need to deconstruct the female experience as a community.
With the support of her family and a flexible curriculum, Grounds was given the opportunity to experiment with her brush and establish a style early on. Believing that her portraits need to be as large as her message, Grounds catches the attention of others by using life-size canvases, vibrant colors and visual effects. Often showing a young, beautiful, blonde woman, it’s plausible that each piece is a direct extension of the artist.
Like many, as an adolescent, Grounds encountered friends and classmates with depression, eating disorders and issues with self-harm. Encouraged to think about the social expectations that shape our definition of self-worth, she made connections to the following themes: peer pressure, social validation, body image, the influence of pop culture and the misrepresentation of women in the media. The move to boarding school led to a more developed sense of misguided behavior. Derogatory slurs. Sexual assault. Dehumanization. After meeting female students from all over the world (who share the same stories), Grounds realized that these issues exist on a global scale.
“I channeled my newfound voice into a painting that would be the start of a powerful message. If I could use my voice to help unify women across the globe, then I could potentially create a beacon of support where women will not have to deal with objectification and sexualization alone. Through my work, my hope is that by bringing these issues to light, I can unapologetically advocate for change and help to empower women,” shares Grounds.
With the power of portraiture painting on her side, the artist says every individual she meets has a story to tell and one of the best ways to do so is through this form of expression – through the glints of an eye or the placement of a hand. Constantly trying to capture and combine both the strength and vulnerability that her subject possesses, Grounds creates a character and a backstory for each portrait. In regards to Lost in Space, she describes a girl who dreams of pursing her scientific passion and becoming an astronaut. The catch: she feels the need to conform to social norms by sexualizing herself. Grounds questions how her actions will impact her in the workplace – more importantly, her reputation.
Finding inspiration in everything from the mundane to the magical, her creative process begins with an idea – an understanding of what message or emotion she wants the painting to evoke.
“Once I have this in mind, I put together a photo shoot. I decide on my model, which have coincidentally been some of my good friends, I do their hair and makeup to fit my theme and I collect props or outfits that I want them to wear. I then take photos of them using my Canon camera, usually taking hundreds to ensure I capture the girl with the perfect expression or emotion, as my work is heavily focused on emotion facial expression,” explains Grounds.
Next, she selects the image with the best composition and completes a multi-stage photo editing process. Often implementing her trademark bright colors and overlay effect; she sketches the image onto the canvas and spends most of her time simply blending different oil paints together. Whether choosing to focus on a pair of lips, leave a cigarette hanging or reveal more skin than usual, there is a reason for each stroke. And with each stroke, a stronger push to promote open discussion and re-visit the portrayal of women in society.
“Finally, women’s voices are coming to the forefront, creating a new age of fresh opinions and voices that are critical for the positive development of our society and the empowerment of the individual and the human form. This revitalization of a woman’s sexuality, coupled with the continuation of the objectification of a woman’s body has inspired my work,” she concludes.