Charly Palmer: In My Lifetime, a retrospective 
April 6 - June 5, 2016

Born in 1960 in Fayette, Alabama, Charly Palmer was raised in Milwaukee after moving to Wisconsin at the age of four. Ezra Jack Keats’ Snowy Day, a children’s book and winner of the 1963 Caldecott Medal, was an early inspiration for the aspiring artist. These illustrations featured a mix of bright colors, geometric shapes, and layered patterns and textures that appealed to the young Palmer.

Jam Session, acrylic on canvas

Early experiences in Milwaukee also influenced the developing artist, including a significant visit to the Milwaukee Art Center in the War Memorial Center at age eleven. Palmer was captivated by the structure, colors, and the mosaic tile on the building, and this inspiration can still be seen in his work today. An influential art teacher in the Milwaukee Art Center Satellite High School Program in the late 1970s was Carolyn White Travanti.  She recognized Palmer’s potential, pushed his talent and “never accepted mediocrity,” according to Palmer. 

Palmer went on to pursue his studies in art and design in Chicago, first at School of the Art Institute and then the American Academy of Art. His artistic influences include Aaron Douglas, Charles White, Gustav Klimt, and Paul Goodnight. Acrylic is the principal medium he uses to paint, primarily for its texture and ability to dry quickly. Additionally he is able to dilute acrylic with water or leave it thick like oil paint. While his paintings mainly deal with figurative subject matter, Palmer’s body of work does include abstract pieces.

Throughout his career, Palmer has explored several roles in the world of art. A graphic designer and commercial illustrator, he has run a successful design studio with Fortune 500 clients. He has also pursued teaching at the post-secondary level, with his most recent appointment at Spelman College. His work has been commissioned by prominent organizations and events, including an official poster for the 1996 Olympics and the 2013 Atlanta Jazz Festival.

Charly Palmer’s work is in numerous private and public collections, including Atlanta Life Insurance, McDonald’s Corporation, Miller Brewing Company, the Coca Cola Company, and Vanderbilt University. One acrylic painting titled "His Story" belonged to the estate of Maya Angelou before it was auctioned in 2015. Palmer has had a number of solo shows in galleries throughout the United States. In 2013 his work was featured in Wisconsin 30 at the Milwaukee Art Museum and the March on Washington Celebration at the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago.

Palmer currently lives and works in Atlanta. Among his current projects is an illustrated book, Mother Africa, which will recount the life of South African singer and civil rights activist Miriam Makeba as well as commemorative artwork for the 150th anniversary of Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. 

Information provided by Ida Harris

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