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Frank Beddor
Frank Beddor
August 23, 2023

Dreaming Of Wonders: Alexa Meade’s Wonderland Dreams

As a big proponent of taking the familiar and telling it in an unfamiliar way—it’s no secret that I adore when the stories we love crosspollinate between mediums to generate incredible art. Few stories do this better than Alice in Wonderland.

From songs to illustration, and mixed media to dance creations, there isn’t a mode of artistic expression that Alice hasn’t infiltrated.

Lately I’ve become intrigued by the fascinating 3D art Wonderland has coaxed into our imaginations. Body paint cosplay, intricate paper cutting popups, and even fully interactive larger than life exhibits – there’s something incredible around every corner.

While I will certainly dig into the deep wells of this niche in the future – today I wanted to share an exciting report from our loyal Wonderverse Superfan – Lynne Henderson. Her recent visit to Alexa Meade’s Wonderland Dreams art exhibit provides those of us unable to attend a fascinating peek down the rabbit hole of innovative 3D art.

Dreaming of Wonders

By Lynne Henderson

Of all the creations from the Inventor’s Parade that Queen Genevieve sent to us through the Heart Crystal, perhaps the most important is the concept underlying them all—imagination. Imagination is what brings to life the things that educate, heal and enrich our lives. 

The imagination that first brought us the wonderful Interactive van Gogh exhibit in 2020 (which I loved, having done an Off-Off Broadway musical about van Gogh centuries ago) caused others to spring up like mushrooms after a rainstorm, the latest of which is Wonderland Dreams by Washington, DC-born artist Alexa Meade. 

To quote her website : “(it) brings to life the story of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland through boldly painted art installations, creating a whimsical world that plays with our perspective of art and reality. Fall down the rabbit hole into a world of secret rose gardens, mad tea parties, and a living art gallery that puts you inside the frame. . . . Every inch of the 26,000 square foot exhibition space is hand-painted from floor to ceiling, letting visitors walk inside a multi-dimensional work of art.”

Occupying the first floor and basement of 529 Fifth Avenue in New York City, the rooms and props amplify scenes from Wonderland with Meade’s unique vision, the riotously bright colours of the rooms bringing out the playful side of adults as well as children. While we cannot—as of yet—literally enter Alice/Alyss’ world, we make a pretty good start with this delightful exhibit.

A rainbow-painted flight of stairs leads down to the exhibit; alas, I didn’t float down with only my fingertips touching the handrail (I’ve always loved the thought of being able to do that). At the foot of the stairs on the right is the floor plan, all the rooms flowing from one into the other. You can wander as you please, as the exhibit doesn’t follow the storylines of Wonderland and Looking-Glass exactly, but Meade takes a few key moments and brings them to life with her own vision. 

I’m trying not to write about too many spoilers, but one can visit and dress up for the Mad Tea Party with hand-painted hats and other accessories (there’s a top hat that would leave even Hatter Madigan speechless), wander in the Queen’s rose garden (fortunately not including any of Redd Heart’s carnivorous roses) and walk across the chessboard landscape of Looking-Glass. There’s a playing card palace with portraits of some famous visitors, and Meade’s take on the Queen of Heart’s throne room; her throne is quite comfortable and I daresay felt very natural to sit upon (see below).

The exhibit is wonderfully interactive and includes a space for adults to let down their guard and join children in the painting fun. There is of course the obligatory gift shop, in which I got a postcard set with more of Meade’s paintings inspired by with quotes from Wonderland. There’s also a lovely café, also hand painted from floor to ceiling, with nary a Tarty Tart in sight, unfortunately. 

All in all, a fun way to spend a couple of hours away from the insanity of everyday life and lose one’s self in Meade’s and Carroll’s world. And faithful Alyssian that I am, I made sure in the midst of enjoying myself to tell a couple of the guides about Looking Glass Wars and how much I thought they would love to read the real story of Wonderland. 

I appreciate that Lynne took time to share her experience with all of us! It is no small feat to distill such an overwhelming sensory experience into the written word.

It’s appropriately topsy-turvey that Alexa has rendered Wonderland into our world by taking a 3D space and making it appear like a 2D painting. The exhibit was a logistical challenge as much as an artistic one. It is coated in layers of varnish so that elements touched by the public could be cleaned and sanitized to keep everyone healthy. It’s interesting to note that certain pieces of the exhibit were even made in duplicates so that they could be replaced if worn or damaged.

I know Meade has been working on this concept since 2009, and from everything I’ve observed the execution has been nothing short of stellar. I would love to have Alexa join me on the All Things Alice podcast to discuss the method behind her madness!

Wonderland Dreams is scheduled to close on September 3rd of 2023 – so time is short to see it for yourself! For more information on this amazing art installation, visit Alexa Meade’s website here.

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