Jail was Heat
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As you can imagine jail was indeed, heat. Especially for a black man circa 1960s America.

Purvis Young dropped out of school at the tender age of 16 and shortly after that was arrested for breaking and entering. He was sentenced to three years in jail. And while he was in jail, something peculiar happened. Young explains during an interview for a documentary about his life, “when I was in my cell one night I woke up and the angels came to me and I told them, 'You know, hey man, that’s not my life' and they said they were going to make a way for me, you know.” After that, Young taught himself to paint and became enthralled by art books. So in a way I guess Young could be grateful for his jail time? That may be a bit of a stretch.

When Young was released, the world was a different place. People were protesting for (and against) the Civil Rights Movement all across America and Young decided to reflect that anger, confusion, and frustration in his painting. He explains, “I started looking at the world problems, war going on and all this, I start painting these problems you know. People protesting man, trying to stop the war, stop the killing and I paint protests, I paint people protesting.” And he painted them on whatever surface he could find. This self portrait was done on “weathered Masonite with nailed-on pieces of various types of weathered scrap wood, including yellow pine and plywood.” But Young doesn’t give a hoot about the material (unmaterialism goals). He only cares about the message, which is basically a cool version of the Shepard Fairey Make Art Not War poster hanging in every tweenie’s bedroom right now.



  1. Raccuglia, David, and Shaun Conrad. PURVIS OF OVERTOWN. Overtown, Florida: Souls Grown Deep Foundation, 2006. film.
  2. "Philadelphia Museum Of Art - Collections Object : Jail Was Heat". Web. 1 June 2017.
  3. Weber, Bruce. "Purvis Young, A Self-Taught Artist, Dies At 67". N.p., 2010. Web. 1 June 2017.