Purvis Young paints on scrap lumber and plywood that he scavenges from the streets and vacant lots of Overton, the historically black neighborhood where he lives in Miami, Florida, and whose long deterioration he has witnessed. He sometimes depicts his surroundings literally, but in this work he paints what he sees with his "inner eyes"—and transcends the misery that surrounds him.
Young has pursued a keen interest in art by studying books in his local libraries. When he began painting, he was inspired by the popular mural movement of the 1960s. He hung his paintings of tenement life and animals on the exterior walls of abandoned buildings in his neighborhood.
Tom Patterson Contemporary Folk Art: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum (New York and Washington, D.C.: Watson-Guptill Publications, in cooperation with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2001)