Annika Rhea is an immersive action painter and movement artist based in Brooklyn, NY. She is the creator of Body Medium, a painting technique that utilizes the body in motion as a painting tool. Rhea is a process-oriented artist and is inspired by the relationship between motion, color, rhythm, concept, and emotion. Her work merges visual art, performance art, video art and music and ranges from painting the embodiment of a concept or emotional state to painting her interpretation of a musical score.
Annika Rhea has over two decades of dance training, performance experience, and cross-training in several movement disciplines such as ballet, modern, contemporary, martial arts, flow arts, Duncan technique, and Graham technique. Rhea began painting over a decade ago when an injury prevented her from dancing. She painted as a creative outlet and allowed the paint to dance for her, imagining that the canvas was a tiny stage and dancers were pushing along the paint. She spent over a decade developing her craft as an abstract expressionist painter before solidly merging the two disciplines of dance and painting in 2016 to create Body Medium.
Since then, she has been represented by John Haas Gallery, Cohen Brothers and has been awarded the SCOPE Art Fair partnered residency at Loews Hotel during Art Basel Miami in 2021. Rhea has performed and worked with musicians and award-winning videographers worldwide and has performed at events such as Art With Me Miami, Brooklyn Fashion Week, Spectrum Art Fair and Wonderfair. Rhea performs, partners and donates work regularly to arts based charities such as The Rema Hort Mann Foundation, The Arts Therapy Project and Broadway Cares. ~ @annikarheaart
“I created Body Medium performance painting to explore new frontiers that break and mold the conventional constructs of fine art and dance. Body Medium was created to harness the energy emitted during a performance and imprint it on canvas to live on beyond the moment of creation in a new way. During the creation process, I use my body as a paintbrush, motion as the strokes and the canvas as a stage. In this way, there is no separation between me and my work, my body is both an extension of the canvas and a painting tool. My process-oriented work puts the artist at the center of the action painting, what I call immersive action painting. As I move, I trust in the cross between freedom of expression (the utilization of improvisation) and the accumulation of technical mastery (25 years of dance and visual art experience) to allow the painting to unfold in the moment. Through the performative aspect of my work, I invite audience members to experience an immersive and intimate view inside the process of creation, allowing space for a deeper connection to the resulting piece.
When I paint, I use an outstretched canvas on the ground and wear clothing that matches the color of the canvas, thus acting as an extension of the canvas. Color is one of the most important elements of my practice. I take color choice, mixing and the consistency of the paint very seriously as I utilize color as a prop, a metaphor, or a way to capture the tonal qualities of music or the surrounding environment. Each painting is a production and yields a large-scale abstract expressionist painting, bodysuit or wearable art and video of creation. My commission painting process is unique as well. I work with both the interior design elements of the space I’m creating for and combine it with a discussion on intention, mood and the “vibration” the commissioner would like the piece to emit.
In 2022, my craft was further deepend with the debut of my first full-length, mainstage conceptual painting performance, Journey. Journey was performed on a 45-foot-long canvas with live music by composer Tasso Zapanti and his peers. Journey is an exploration of my orientation as a process-oriented artist as the canvas was sectioned into five chapters, each one representing a different stage of the creative cycle. Journey is a commentary on the creative process and follows a metaphorical narrative of the “story of an idea” from its conception inside the mind through the creative cycle from the perspective of an artist. I incorporated a theatrical element to this piece, acting out each stage utilizing different colors, costumes and lighting to immerse the audience in the concept. In this piece, I redefine the stages of the creative cycle to take into account the human experience and emotional rage it takes to bring a vision to life.”
My dance injury was what pushed me into this craft. At the time, I was a dance major at The George Washington University and the injury took away my creative and physical outlet. After sinking into a deep depression, I decided to change my outlook and allow my mind, my imagination to dance for me, using paint on a canvas. This is an example of the theory that adversity is a breeding ground for creation and expansion if it’s seen as such. Each trauma, pitfall or roadbump has allowed me to dive deeper into my craft. This is a reminder to all creators to keep going, to not give up and to let all life experiences, good and bad, reflect themselves in your work.
Body Medium: Annika Rhea’s Performance Painting Video
Color Splash Art: Body Medium Annika Rhea’s’ Performance Painting | YouTube Video