Over 30 years and counting, Charly Palmer’s art speaks for itself. In every painting, he bears witness of African ancestry and contemporary experiences — rhythmic, visual stories that shift 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. “For the past 25 years, I have been on a mission through my art to sound the alarm,” Palmer says. “I hope that this cover reflects that concern. My message is not white hate. It is resounding Black love.”

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. Based on his years of experience painting on the subject of race, he was commissioned by Time Magazine for the July 2020 "America Must Change" issue. Asked to capture a moment in which Americans will see whether their country is able to live up to its promise, Palmer created a 40-by-30 inch, acrylic painting of a little girl faced with both the injustice of today and America’s historical role in it, titled ‘In Her Eyes.

He will discuss his author-illustrator debut, “The Legend of Gravity,” a tall tale about a neighborhood basketball hero. Gravity is the new kid on the Hillside Projects basketball team, the Eagles. He once jumped so high that his teammates went out for ice cream before he came back down. It’s a clever, energetic story about the unsung superstars walking among us, complete with vivid art and heartfelt themes of teamwork, loyalty, friendship, and fun.

Palmer's past notable work includes the painting “His Story,” which was a part of Maya Angelou’s art collection; the cover art for John Legend’s latest album, “Bigger Love;” a poster for the 1996 Olympics; as well as commissions marking the 150th anniversaries of both Fisk University and Howard University. As an instructor, he teaches design and illustration and painting at the post-secondary level, most recently at Spelman College, and he received the 2018 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award for “Mama Africa.”

Charly Palmer’s work is in private and public collections, including JP Morgan Chase, Microsoft, Atlanta Life Insurance, McDonald’s Corporation, Miller Brewing Company, the Coca Cola Company, and Vanderbilt University.


Book cover for The Legends of Gravity by Charly Palmer.