A Sailor's Story: Construction Mechanic Noah Purifoy


Construction Mechanic Noah Purifoy was born on August 17, 1917, in Snow Hill, Alabama. He grew up in Birmingham and graduated from the Alabama State Teachers College in 1939 with a degree in social science. 

He taught woodshop at the Tuscaloosa High School before enlisting in the US Navy in response to World War II. Construction Mechanic Noah Purifoy completed Seabee training and was deployed to the Pacific. 

In 1946, after serving throughout the war, Construction Mechanic Purifoy attended Atlanta University and graduated in 1948 with a degree in Social Work. He moved to Los Angeles, California, shortly after, in 1950.

Construction Mechanic Noah Purifoy graduated from Chouinard Art Institute with a bachelor's degree in 1954 and began his commercial fine arts career as a sculptor. In 1964, he co-founded the Watts Tower Art Center, a community arts program for the Watts California Black community.

The Watts Rebellion, the six-day violent protest that caused 34 deaths and destroyed 1,000 buildings, profoundly affected his art. Construction Mechanic Noah Purifoy began creating mixed-media sculptures using the detritus of Watts's destroyed buildings. His show of the work "66 Signs of Neon" launched the "Junk Dada" art movement.  

In 1976, he accepted a position on the California Arts Council, where he designed new community art programs until 1989, when he retired to Joshua Tree, California, and established the Outdoor Desert Art Museum. 

Construction Mechanic Noah Purifoy died on March 5, 2004, and rests at Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery in Rittman, Ohio.

The Outdoor Desert Art Museum still exists. You can learn more about it here at the Noah Purifoy Foundation.


a.d. elliott is a wanderer, writer, and photographer currently living in Salem, Virginia. 

In addition to the writings at www.takethebackroads.com, you can also read her book reviews at www.riteoffancy.com and US military biographies at www.everydaypatriot.com

Her online photography gallery can be found at shop.takethebackroads.com


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