John Younger
Oil painting of a woman standing in a dimly lit room

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6 AM, My Wife with Self-portrait
Collection of the artist, courtesy Gallery Henoch

I have considered the fact that this is an unusual portrait for the competition entry and I have vacillated for many days and nights about submitting it. The choice was between this and another entry that actually better displays my skills as a portraitist. However, in the end, I chose this painting because of its more complex and challenging nature. It expands the scope of the portrait theme and shows the fuzzy boundaries that emerge between the artist and subject. It reveals the sitter’s character, personality and inner dimension while introducing twists and conflicts about my own identity. There is a deceptive stillness in the portrait, yet still there are suggestions of movement and activity. My self-portrait hangs in direct view of where she has paused. Her figure seems to float between the basement door and the ascending stairwell, almost detached from the room. Ostensibly, the whole of the interior revolves around her. Every aspect of the composition is designed and orchestrated to reflect some symbol or identity within her life. The sitter is my wife Deborah, and the painting was begun during a time of change within our family. We were preparing our children for college and dealing with many uncertainties in our future. These issues were central to my state of mind when I began the portrait, but are mentioned only as narrow references to help orient the viewer.