Who are you at 3am? If you said “asleep,” then this one isn’t for you.

I am ecstatic to be able to share with you my latest piece, a self-portrait.

traci turner_selfportrait_art_traci l turner

I think I’d consider this one to be of the most accurate self-portraits I’ve done to date, in execution and narrative. If you recall in an earlier post, I shared a blue self-portrait that I did in college (maybe about 10 years ago? What the fuuuh…):

Traci Turner_art_painting_TraciLTurner

Blue Girl (detail). Oil on canvas. By Traci L. Turner

You can see with the new one that we have come a long way, baby. I think it’s great to be able to have some of these older pieces to reference as I continue to make new work. I love seeing the progression, and I love to be able to share that with you as well. If nothing else it shows that it really does take time to build skill, confidence and develop a personal style. I think with each painting I am getting closer and closer to nailing that down.

I think my Hemorrhage series marked an official beginning to creating deeply personal and emotional work. With “3am“, I can tell that I am growing much more comfortable with revealing my insecurities and exploring the darker emotions within. It’s odd to me how much more comfortable I am with being vulnerable on-canvas than in-person these days. Try as I might, I just don’t think I have any bravery left to be this honest and open with a stranger or even an acquaintance in real life. In deliberately taking an inward direction with my subject matter, I’m noticing that each piece is revealing as much about myself to ME as it is to you. With the completion of this latest piece, and now comparing it with a self-portrait from my early 20s, I realized that I have not done a real self-portrait that shows any levity or happiness. Those are the types of traits that people assign to me the most when they think of me. I’m aware that I can be perceived as a jovial and well-adjusted person, but I’ve never painted myself in that light. Is that not how I see myself? Is it all just a front?

I don’t know if I’d say it’s that deep, because despite whatever I put down in my artwork, or whatever darkness I may face, I do think that people’s perception of me is correct. I am generally a nice and easy-going person. However, I think when doing self-portraits it’s about the artist showing the viewer a side beneath the surface. Yes, yes, I’m nice and laidback, I like to dance and goof-off. BORING. There isn’t much depth in any of that to me, anyone can show you that or paint pretty pictures. What I think is the most interesting about people is what’s underneath all of that, the internal struggles and haunting questions. The kind of stuff that people wonder about a loved one who suddenly commits suicide. When we’re surprised we ask, “What was he going through? He seemed just fine.”

There’s usually more behind what someone shows you on the surface. “3am” is about just that. It’s speaking to that witching hour for the Lonely and the Preoccupied. In this painting the body language is exposed yet guarded and a bit insecure. The gaze is deep and distant, searching the reflection in the mirror. I used a lot of cool shades of blue and grey to express the sadness and uncertainty that befalls me when my mind drifts too deep into nostalgia or lingers too long on questions without answers. I also struggle with constantly feeling like I’m in a liminal stage in life. The strength of these thoughts and emotions are at their peak when no one is around, in the dead of night when it seems as if I’m the only one awake thinking about everything and no one is thinking about me.

At 3am I am solitary, self-reflective, exposed and unsure.

Who are you at 3am?