Best Visual Artist (2007)

Purvis Young

At some unidentifiable point along the way, Purvis Young went from being a street person in Miami's Overtown neighborhood to being a South Florida cultural institution. Last year, that metamorphosis was confirmed by a happy coincidence: a sweeping retrospective of the artist's career at the Boca Raton Museum of Art and the screening of a documentary about the artist at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival. The exhibition, "Purvis Young: Paintings From the Street," featured more than 100 works by the prolific artist, including a wall blanketed with dozens of side-by-side paintings that re-created the feel of Young's famous Goodbread Alley installation of the 1970s, for which he nailed his paintings onto a stretch of abandoned buildings. The film Purvis of Overtown chronicles Young's origins in the Miami ghetto and his ascension to iconic status as a self-taught artist who documents his world using his own distinct visual language in media as varied as house paint, shards of discarded furniture, construction-site debris, and countless other found objects. Did we mention that Fort Lauderdale's Gallery 721 boasts a collection of Young works so extensive that it's known as the Purvis Young Museum? While his paintings now command prices in the thousands, the artist himself, amazingly, continues to live and work in — and draw his inspiration from — Overtown.


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