Purvis Young -- the late Liberty City native; painter of tens of thousands of urban expressionist works; whose paintings are collected by the Smithsonian Museum, Rubell Collection, Damon Wayans, and Jim Belushi; creator of his own complex language of icons and symbols; prolific recycler of found materials; and maybe the best artist ever to come out of Miami -- is back.
He muralized the Overtown/Culmer Library with a work called "Everyday Life" in 1984. According to the Miami Dade Library Art Service's department, he repainted it in 1991. And now, 21 years later, Addonis Parker has stepped up to the dead man's brush strokes for restorative therapy on the sun-, bullet-, and weather-beaten walls.
Parker first stepped up to the challenge in 2010 with the City of Miami's groundbreaking on a $10 million dollar renewal project for Gibson Park, where the library is located.
Today, the restoration has finally begun. Here's what it looks like in its very early stages. Below is the wall that faces NW Third Ave. The entire background is re-energized with a new coat of yellow housepaint (Young was a housepaint artist), and the lower right quadrant sees restored figures.
Parker says, "I studied the subject matter, man. Meaning, not only did I find footage on YouTube of him painting to study how he used the brush, but I studied his life, to learn who he is, his thought process, and his stroke pattern. He has his own fingerprint, a style he's known for."
"He painted with freedom. He was a free soul. He took the elements of everyday life and made them more beautiful. He related to the city, the crying, the traffic, the overcrowding....This wall, with everybody standing together, is about unity."
"My favorite brushstroke of his are the wiggles that he uses for the people."
"This is one of the many holes in the wall that I've had to patch. I can't say for sure that it's a bullet hole, but...."
"It's an extreme honor to have been selected for this restoration. Purvis Young is a champion, a giant, and I could never be him. We will only ever see one of him in our lifetime. His total dedication to the craft, his selflessness....He gives a window to a creative moment with the creator."
"If I'm never considered a great American artist, I humble myself and know that I was part of the solution and not the problem. Painting is therapeutic for me and I know that I'm giving to and helping the community."
"The weather has been brutal to these walls, and this one has sulfur damage from the sprinkler water."
"Purvis was a bright light in a dark area with an eternal lamp that could never be put out, and I thank God and him for giving me the opportunity to have the prestige and honor to restore his work. This is going to be as close and interpretation as possible. The final product will be more Purvis than me. I have to keep each of his actual brush strokes in there."
"We're also adding these tiles in a sort of abstract way because he was an abstract thinker."
"I'm also doing a 6' x 12' painting in the main building of the park called "And A Child Shall Lead Them." It depicts an anti-hate message of unity, love, liberation, and life. It's a protest for love."
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"And I'm working with Carla Rowe, my art consultant for Art Forever Miami Inc., that's my non-profit, to let people know about it."
"This wall is going to be the hardest to restore. Look at these horses. They're his symbol for freedom. Purvis loved wild horses."
See the restoration process for yourself at the Overtown/Culmer Library at Gibson Park in Overtown at 350 NW 13th Street.