My last encounter with Miami artist Purvis Young was in New York. I had the pleasure of taking him to lunch at Sylvia’s in Harlem for ” rib sticking ” Southern food. Chitlins, corn bread, collared greens, the works……On the wall next to our table were photos of the many celebrities for whom Sylvia’s is an obligatory destination above 125th street. Among them was ex-president Clinton, whose office is within easy walking distance.
As we were leaving the restaurant and getting into my car, Purvis shyly asked whether we could stop by and take a look the Apollo Theater.
He said he’d love see the place where so many of his Jazz and Blues heroes had performed. We took in the Apollo and Times Square, which he also wanted to visit, before I deposited Purvis at the home of a major collector, where he and his manager were staying.
Somewhere among Purvis’s belongings his wife Eddie May may find a baseball cap emblazoned with the word ” Harlem ” in sequins which I purchased from a street vendor for Purvis that day. That was the last time I was to see Purvis in this life but his massive presence will remain with me always.
There’s an old Russian saying which goes: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”
Purvis was an archetypal “hedgehog” and the one big thing he knew is that he was born to paint.
Now Purvis rests among the Angels which he painted so assiduously all of his adult life. The same Angels which appeared to him in his prison cell as a teenager and told him that a new life as an artist would be waiting for him outside.
And what a life it’s been ! What an amazing out-pouring of creativity, of artistic growth and exploration.
A ” Great Soul ” has left us….
Fortunately Purvis Young’s work will continue to inspire and give pleasure, not just to us, but to future generations.
Of that I am absolutely certain.