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Capturing Black America – Time Cover Artist Charly Palmer

The cover of Time Magazine’s July 6th double issue was painted by Atlanta-based African-American fine artist Charly Palmer to capture the essence of racial injustice today –  and from an historical perspective –  as seen through the eyes of a child. It is one of four paintings by Palmer to be featured in Time’s special issue on racism, “America Must Change.”

The high-impact acrylic painting titled “In Her Eyes” shows what is going on inside the head of a 9-year-old girl. It reveals images of police brutality, riots, fires and ongoing injustice. Underneath the profile of the young girl are a display of lush flowers that seem to bleed off the page. It delivers on Palmer’s belief that “Art should change the temperature in a room.”

“Little Black children today are afraid,” said Charly Palmer, in commenting on his portrait which uses as its inspiration, the 9-year-old daughter of a friend. “I am a child of the ’60’s and did not think we would still be addressing the same issues I’ve been raising the alarm about for 30-years. Our nation must join together to change this.”

Other paintings by Palmer in the issue include “Remembering George,” a black and white montage of 14-year old African American George Stinney Jr. with angle wings and flowers. Stinney was the youngest person ever executed in the US for a wrongful murder charge that was later vacated. 

“George Stinney is a subject I’ve painted many times. It is important for us to continue to remember him and his horrible story,” explained Palmer.

Another painting “Eminent Domain” is a map of the interstate as imagined through spreading cancer cells. It was created to demonstrate the evil role played by the government in taking over Black communities to build interstate highways. The third painting of Palmer’s in the issue is a portrait of novelist James Baldwin. The final painting is of a little boy with an auction sign behind him with text that reads “Public Sale,” taken from an original notice of a slave auction. It is part of Palmer’s ‘silent’ series challenging the idea of how Black ideas and opinions are silenced. 

One painting that did not make it into the magazine is an image of a kneeling Colin Kaepernick with flowers in his hair, and a separated image of the flag with stars above to the right and red and white stripes below to the left. 

“This is not a statement about the flag or our soldiers,” explained Palmer, “it’s about the mistreatment of Black people since the moment we were brought to America. It captures the intensity of what we deal with every day.”

The artist’s work is a celebration of African American culture, people and moments. He layers textures and patterns with a mix of bold colors to create visual theatre that gleans from history and life experience. He began incorporating flowers into his portraits and paintings after his mother passed away as a representation of life, death, joy, fertility, mourning and love. In his artwork, the flowers become a symbol of beauty that, at times, serve  as a distraction to the harsh realities that accompany Black life.

Palmer began painting as a young child. His mother invited the young artist to paint on the walls of their home in Milwaukee, WI. He studied at the School of Art Institute in Chicago and the American Academy of Art. 

His recent work includes the cover art for John Legend’s latest album, Bigger Love and the cover painting of the young adult novel All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson. Gabrielle Union has announced she is picking up the book for a TV Show. He had illustrated several children’s books, and is currently is working on producing an anthology based on W.E.B Du Bois children’s magazine, The Brownies’ Book with his partner, sociologist Karida Brown; comprised of original art, stories, and music produced by notable Black artists and writers. He has taught design and illustration at Spelman College and received the 2018 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award.

About the Author

New York Trend is a weekly news publication that focuses on issues and lifestyles of the African & Caribbean American communities throughout the New York metropolitan area and Nassau and Suffolk Counties of Long Island. It is a respected and well recognized news publication that has been in existence since 1989. Owner, Publisher and Executive Director, Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams has been at the helm of this award-winning publication since its inception. New York Trend continues to be the only black woman-owned, metropolitan newspaper in New York and Long island. New York Trend is the largest black-owned newspaper throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.

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