In the 1960s, Purvis Young was serving time in the Florida State Penitentiary for breaking and entering. While in prison, he began drawing and studying art, finding inspiration in the work of Rembrandt, El Greco, Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Picasso.

After his release, Young began making what would become thousands of small drawings on found paper—correspondence, manila folders, bank statements, bills, memos—thrown away by offices and small manufacturing plants on the fringes of his community. He kept his drawings in shopping carts and later glued them into magazines he found in the street and discarded books from the Culmer/Overtown Branch Library.

In his dawings, Purvis documented the social life, sexual rituals, playground sports, and the struggling and suffering of his Miami neighborhood of Overtown. Once a thriving community of Jamaican immigrants, Overtown had been decimated by the construction of Interstate 395 in the late 1960s.

He returned again and again to favorite topics—basketball, horses, pregnant women, funerals, boats at sea, people of the streets—and would occasionally create a book with a hundred or more drawings dedicated to a single theme.

In 1980 Purvis Young assembled a book of ninety drawings executed during the previous four years. Each work depicts an aspect of the sea: tossing waves, boats, drowning sailors and refugees, sunsets, the moon over the water. Many of the drawings contain captions; the cover is inscribed "sun and my mind."


  • Title: Untitled
  • Creator: Purvis Young
  • Creator Lifespan: 1943/2010
  • Creator Nationality: American
  • Creator Gender: Male
  • Creator Death Place: Miami, Florida
  • Creator Birth Place: Miami, Florida
  • Date Created: 1976-1980
  • Location Created: Miami, Florida
  • Physical Dimensions: 11 x 17 1/4 in. (27.9 x 43.8 cm)
  • Subject Keywords: Black art, African American art
  • Type: Book, Drawing
  • Rights: Larry Clemons, Gallery 721 / Photo, Stephen Pitkin, Pitkin Studio
  • External Link: https://www.soulsgrowndeep.org/artist/purvis-young
  • Medium: Marker and crayon on paper glued to found book

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