Over 30 years and counting, Charly Palmer’s art speaks for itself. Literally, Palmer's paintbrush is as a Griot. In every painting, he bears witness of African ancestry and contemporary experiences — rhythmic, visual stories that shifts what each viewer believes to see — should one dare to look deeply.
Palmer has an innate awareness of documenting the intricacies of Blackness with such depth, patterns, symbols, and textures that it is easy to forget that he begins with a blank canvas. The ways in which he applies acrylic is somewhat its own aesthetic that transcends where one’s thought begins and ends.
As a Fine Artist who paints upwards of 50 paintings a year, Palmer’s heart’s desire? To be used as a vessel and expression of something higher than himself.
Follow the instructions of the ancestors and you will see greatness happen; there’s intrinsic beauty and strength of Blackness in each body of work. Much of Palmer’s messaging is in the eyes of his people, as if conversing with one another. Conversing with you. From loose sketches and tight lines to blocks of color to nuances of mixed media, his art manifests in visual expressions to the questions, “What came before? What truth must be told?”
"I put all my focus, energy and love into us.
I’m an extremist when it comes to the love of Black people.”
In 2020, Palmer illustrated the cover art for John Legend's Grammy Award-winning studio album Bigger Love. That same summer he was also selected to do the July 2020 cover for the acclaimed Time Magazine for the "America Must Change" issue. Several other illustrations were included in the issue, including portraits of George Stinney, Jr. and James Baldwin paired with American iconography. The paintings were received as both beautiful and mournful. Palmer was chosen to work on the cover based on his 20 years of experience painting on the subject of race.
Charly Palmer’s work is in private and public collections, which include JP Morgan Chase, Microsoft, Atlanta Life Insurance, McDonald’s Corporation, Miller Brewing Company, the Coca Cola Company and Vanderbilt University. His previous work His Story, belonging to the estate of Maya Angelou, was auctioned by Swann Gallery in 2015. Palmer’s work was commissioned for the 1996 Olympics and the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau. In 2016, he was selected to execute original artwork commemorating Fisk University’s 150th year anniversary; in 2017, he accomplished the same for Howard University.
For Palmer, there’s nothing else he could imagine himself ever doing. Born in Fayette, Alabama and raised in Wisconsin, Palmer completed studies in Chicago at the American Academy of Art and School of Art Institute. He’s taught design and illustration and painting at Spelman College. Palmer resides in Atlanta, GA with his wife, Karida Brown, and their two pugs, Pugsly and Blu.