Purvis Young


04/20/10   My friend Purvis Young died today; he will be missed. 

Purvis was a force and a true artist.  A giant but gentle man who’s art flowed through him, bravely unedited and naked. He was the most truthful person I have ever met.

Purvis Young represented his neighborhood by making us listen to a voice we never hear. Throughout the years Purvis was called an “outsider artist”, “folk artist”, “naive” and even “primitive”.  He was none of these things.  Purvis was an American Contemporary Painter every bit as relevant as Jasper Johns or Robert Rauschenberg.  He made his art from what others threw away.  Purvis’s art came from the streets of Overtown, Miami showing us that there was great value in his neighborhood and nothing should be thrown away.  With a little love and attention great beauty would emerge.

Purvis had the ultimate confidence in his purpose in life; he was on a mission to help alleviate suffering and injustice.  Whenever Purvis would come to the gallery I would get out a sketchpad and some colored pens for him to work with.  Even when sitting-greeting admirers Purvis’s hand would be furiously working on the sketchpad.  He never stopped, all the while telling stories and answering questions.  One time while we had a moment alone I put my hand on his and asked him why?  Why don’t you stop for a minute?  Why do you work so hard?  He smiled as he began to draw again and said; “Not enough time, not enough time, I’ve got to much to do, to much suffering still.” 

A feature length documentary film (2006, Purvis of Overtown), countless books on him and his art, and an impressive list of exhibitions and permanent museum collections are just the beginning of Purvis’ growing worldwide fame.  Purvis Young life’s work is vast and glorious and will continue to affect change in people for years to come.  


Contemporary American Artist

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