Prolific self-taught Miami artist Purvis Young was a storyteller of the streets. “I paint reality – I paint the problems of the world. Painting on everything from construction site trash and found wood to broken furniture and discarded books, Purvis Young transformed the debris of our throw-away society into compelling artworks which reverberate with inner city realities and the struggles of African-Americans, political and cultural history, storytelling and spirituality.

Young’s visual poetry is drawn from the plight of the underprivileged, racism in America, urban strife and African-American experiences. Young painted what he saw in the world  – soaring interstate highway overpasses, ghetto streets, angry protests, funeral processions, struggle and violence.

“I woke up and the angels came to me and I told ‘em, you know, hey man this is not my life – and they said they were gonna make a way for me, you know….” The way led Purvis Young back to his home in Overtown, a once thriving center of African American life and culture in Miami reduced to a few square blocks of decay, despair, and devastation. It was this place and its people – his people that provided the inspiration, stories, and materials for Purvis Young’s visionary art works that bear witness to his anger and frustration, but also to his hope and belief in a better future for generations to come.



It don’t bother me!

For so many years, people have been calling me all different kinds of names to describe me as an artist, outsider, black artist, ghetto artist, the Picasso of the Ghetto.

I just want to be called an artist. That’s all I’ve been doing all my life is paintin.

But, it don’t bother me!

Some dealers used to say I paint too much.  They had their reasons.

But, it don’t bother me!

Those paintings are hanging in apartments, houses, mansions, galleries, and museums all over the world.  People come and tell me that, and I read about it in the books.

But, it don’t bother me!

Some say I sold my early paintings too cheap. But I had bills to pay, and I didn’t want anybody to pay for me.  By me selling them that way my paintings go all over the world so people can see the struggles I’ve been seeing and I just hope that there can be peace in the world.

But, it don’t bother me!

I like to paint and thanks to all those doctors and nurses from the University of Miami Medical Center, Jackson Memorial Hospital and Baskin-Palmer Eye Institute, I am here with you tonight. I can see you and walk around like I haven’t done in twenty years.  But I am still waiting for a kidney transplant.

But, it don’t bother me!

Just the other day, a doctor that bought some of my paintings in the 70s came by to see me and get a certificate that I painted the work.  It made me feel good.  I just paint what I see and feel. People are now coming from all over to get the certificates from me to show that I painted those paintings.

It makes me proud.

But, it don’t bother me!

Purvis Young, August 2006