People as an artist's canvas

In the words of French artist Edgar Degas, "art is not what you see but what you make others see." Nearly 100 years after Degas' death, Los Angeles artist Alexa Meade is finding new ways to bring that vision to life by using people as her canvas.

The 28-year-old creates art by manipulating dimension with paint and then photographing the result, CBS News' Jamie Wax reports.

"It's really this 3-D world that we're so accustomed to, but just with a little bit of tweaking on it, it appears like something completely foreign. It feels like the world of a two-dimensional painting and something we have such a hard time wrapping our heads around," Meade said.

Just try wrapping your head around any of her works.

When she introduces her painted people into the unpainted world, the result is stunning.

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Alexa Meade

She's not limited to people, however. Her still life, is real life.

She said there's a lot she does to flatten out a shadow or a shape.

"I can't really get into what it is, but the main thing I can say is that, like, 90 percent of it is in the shadows. If you start playing with them, you will see that things start appearing and disappearing in interesting ways," Meade said.

Alexa the artist appeared in an interesting way as well. She'd left a life in politics to pursue her art when a brief mention in a blog led to a flurry of interest in her work.

"From there, my work went completely viral overnight. I had people all around the world trying ... to, like, buy my art, to offer me all sorts of weird things. And it was absolutely terrifying," Meade said, laughing. "Like, my whole life changed in, like, one day."

Her process is a performance, as much a work of art as the finished product.

"I think it's just a new way of seeing things," Meade said. "Like, I'd had this woman write me a letter who'd been in an abusive relationship, and seeing my art made her realize, like, 'Wow, I'm putting on this face for the outside world that's completely different than who I am inside.' And she said it helped give her some courage to leave ... And so I didn't create that piece speaking about domestic violence, and yet someone was able to connect to it in a way that was beyond anything I could have imagined."

Clothing company Ralph Lauren took notice. Last year, it built an ad around Meade and her painting.

"My worst models are the people who want to be my best models," Meade said. "They think, 'OK, I'm going to be, like, so perfect. I'm gonna stand still.' And I'll tell them, 'You don't need to stand still. I want to feel, like, your life and your energy and who you are coming through as I'm painting you.' I don't want someone to become a caricature of, like, this is what perfect is like."

Meade wants to show people something different about the world through her eyes.

"I want them to see that there's more there than meets the eye, that there is this world that you know but then also there are deeper things to explore within it," she said.

Watch the video to see Jamie Wax become the subject of Meade's painting.