Artist Alexandra Grounds isn’t afraid of being exposed. The 19-year-old’s artistic evolution is literally splashed on the walls of the studio in her parents’ Paradise Valley home. Crayon scribbles sit beside photorealistic oil portraits. Her latest work is a self-portrait of the willowy blonde dressed in a sheer bodysuit. “It was a bit awkward when my family had a party here,” she says. “But I’m not embarrassed. It’s empowering.”
Long before #MeToo entered the collective consciousness, Grounds’ work challenged the hyper-sexualization of teenagers in American society. “The girls I’ve painted, many of them have gone through stories like that,” she says.
Grounds is also influenced by the erotically charged works of modernist painter Richard Phillips, whose pop art was featured on Gossip Girl. “He’s the reason I made my first oil painting,” she says. In high school, Grounds emailed Phillips an image of her work, not expecting an answer. Not only did he respond, he traveled to teach workshops at her New Hampshire boarding school. Grounds honed her masterful shading skills under the tutelage of her idol.
She’s currently painting full-time in Paradise Valley and traveling before starting Columbia University this fall. “My dream is to sell my paintings in a New York City gallery,” she says. “I’ll never change them for the public, though. You should always make art for yourself.” Whatever career path Grounds ends up pursuing, she’s happy if her paintings have made at least one other young woman feel as empowered as she does. View her work at alexandragrounds.com.