Two weeks ago, we hopped on the A train over to one of Brooklyn’s oldest neighborhoods, Brownsville, to visit the studio of Greg Purnell. Surrounded by murals and enveloped by the sound of the subway overhead, Greg’s building has an aged industrial feel to it that’s characteristic of Brooklyn. It’s inconspicuous. But on the other side of the door, the ground-level space tells a singular personal story.
Greg is an artist whose creativity isn’t delineated by specific mediums or any traditional definition of “art.” When you walk in, the first room of the studio is the barber shop. For more than 33 years, since he was kid, Greg’s been cutting hair. He’s visited dozens of shops in NYC over the years, purely to take in what it’s like to get a haircut in Chinatown, in Crown Heights, in Harlem. And if you get the privilege to watch him cut (or get a cut yourself), you’ll see that the soul and the sensitivity manifested in his paintings is equally present when there’s a client in the chair.
From the pristine boombox (we had A Tribe Called Quest queued up on tape), to the antique cash register, to the barber chair itself–passed down from generation to generation of an Italian immigrant family–every detail in the studio has been carefully considered. That meticulous appreciation for detail resonated strongly with our approach at Blue In Green, where it’s always been about subtle, superlative details.
While the public can’t make appointments at the shop, inviting in the community plays a significant role in Greg’s life and work. In the summer, the space is used to host parties and events, to share the vibrant creative energy brimming inside with family, friends, and neighbors. It’s an energy we felt lucky to have had the opportunity to experience. Before heading out, we wanted to ask Greg a few questions about his personal background, his worldview, and what media he’s been into recently.
Where are you from?
How many years have you been in NYC?
Spent my entire life in Brooklyn.
What gets you up in the morning?
My daughter and my goals.
How would you define your personal style?
Stylish comfort + urban chic.
What’s the last good book you read?
The Science of Melanin by T. Owens Moore.
What’s the last good movie you saw?
Describe yourself in 3 words.
Father, artist, lover.
Images by Nathan Zack
Words by Nathan Zack
Video by Garrett Frisbey