Blog / Art: a Story.

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Purvis Young

By Shannon Connelly

Roman lyric poet, Horace once said, “A picture is a poem without words.” Art tells a story through paintings, sculptures, music, etc. that can take your mind on a journey across the world.

Purvis Young’s paintings told a fascinating story about urban life, by addressing issues such as social stratification and disenfranchisement through his mixed media paintings. During the 1960’s, Young’s home, a section of Miami known as Overtown was torn apart due to the construction of Interstate Highway 95. Using castoff materials from abandoned buildings, Young began painting and delivered a message that emphasized on the injustice of the world surrounding him. Young’s paintings consisted of personal signs, symbols, and black figures.  Elongated black figures with arms extended towards the sky characterize rituals and protest. The figures are arranged in a rhythmic pattern to also be a symbol of dance and worship.  Horse illustrations are shaped to represent hope. It is assumed that the horse was made to carry the oppressed out of the state.  Young paints floating heads to signify Angels watching over the people and large black circles to indicate the victims. The protector or as Young calls it, “Big Brother” is revealed by bluish green circles. Young’s use of bold colors including yellow, red, blue, black, and orange correspond with the feeling of joy, freedom, and triumph.

“A man paints with his brain and not with his hand.”-Michelangelo


IMAGE: Untitled by Purvis Young, ca. 1988, in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Low resolution image from Wikipedia. The use of the image will not affect the value of the original work in a negative way or limit the copyright holder’s rights or ability to distribute the original

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