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Purvis Young: Overtown’s Home-Grown Artist PDF Print E-mail
Written by Paul S. George, Special to the BT   
October 2015

A view of our past from the archives of HistoryMiami

PPix_PictureStory_10-15urvis Young was a “Miami original,” a prolific and talented street artist whose works are found not only in outdoor venues in many parts of his hometown, but also in many of this country’s and the world’s most prestigious museums and private collections. Young was born in Liberty City in 1943. At an early age he began drawing but soon after abandoned it.

Young’s teenage years were troubled. He was convicted of a felony in his late teens and spent more than two years in prison. During his incarceration, he began drawing again, believing he was touched by an angel who turned his life around.

Following his release, Young began painting on walls, abandoned doors, cardboard, pieces of wood, discarded metal objects, and even the side of a wheat silo next to a defunct bakery in Wynwood. His expressionistic art also appeared on conventional canvases and expressway embankments.

He left Overtown a neighborhood filled with wall art long before Wynwood became the outdoor art mecca of the area and beyond. Young’s subjects ranged from the blues and jazz musicians who performed in Overtown in the middle decades of the 20th Century to holy men, angels, warriors, wild horses, and urban landscapes. His paintings carried a range of messages, from anger and oppression to hope.

Despite serious health problems and drug addiction, Young painted to the final days of his life, which slipped away in 2010. He was 67 years old, and his works had brought him fame, but not wealth. Young died destitute.

His legend has grown in the five years since his death, and his paintings have enjoyed a wider audience than ever. Earlier this year, Miami Beach’s Bass Museum of Art donated 400 pieces of Young’s work to the Historic Lyric Theater Cultural Center in Overtown, making them available to a potential mass audience.

 

To order a copy of this photo, please contact HistoryMiami archives manager Dawn Hugh at 305-375-1623, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

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