Outsider artist painting: Frank Sinatra - by Harriet Young
1 of 8
  • Frank Sinatra

  • 1992
  • Acrylic Gel
  • 30" x 24"

Did Harriet Young have an affair with Frank Sinatra, like it says on the marquee? From the interview we know that Sinatra knew her, liked her, and that, ring-a-ding-ding, she liked him back. We also know her imagination on the canvas could run a little wild sometimes, like for instance here, and that perhaps this carried over into other aspects of her life, catapulting her full-throttle into wish fulfillment mode. Or maybe she was just having fun with us, trying to create a little buzz in Philly.

Until someone comes along to set the record straight, there really is no reliable way to sort any of this out, so what follows falls somewhere between idle chatter and informed speculation.

We were trying to figure out just who in this painting is really Harriet Young. Some women face forward, others backward, but really there is not much that makes one more prominent than another. In fact, you could say that there is a studied attempt at equality, with all the women standing true vertically, and shown totally head-on, or rear-on.

But fast-forward a couple of years, because that’s how long it took us to stumble upon this marker laid down by Harriet Young:

Pop artist Harriet Young hides herself in a tree in her Frank Sinatra painting

For sure this didn’t make Harriet more prominent, but it definitely set her apart from all the rest.

If in fact there was something going on, hiding in a tree makes perfect sense. By keeping out of view, surely Harriet was aligning the story with the actual event. She was not and could never be one of Sinatra’s head-on, rear-on, standing true, vertical women.

But consider also this: what if there was another Harriet Young, and Harriet knew her or knew of her? Recall that Las Vegas was a small town back then, and its close-knit entertainment community smaller yet. Trust us, this is not as far-fetched as it sounds.

If Harriet Young the artist is not the Harriet Young on the Sinatra marquee in this joyous and utterly compelling early work, then we think we have a pretty good idea of who is really up there, and as we write this, she blessedly still walks among us. We found her, asked her, but she ain’t talkin’, so neither are we.