Giving Them Flowers

Charly Palmer Solo Exhibition

august 6 - october 15

Center of knowehere

73 Circuit ave, Oak bluff View Artworks View Virtual Room

Charly Palmer’s debut solo exhibition in Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard, Giving Them Flowers, continues an artistic commitment to honor what it means to be Black in America. Featuring a panoply of never-been-seen and past iconic paintings composed of acrylic, watercolor, collage on canvas and paper, this is an exhibition celebrating Black life. Palmer memorializes the past while reminding the viewer to live in the present.

As James Baldwin, one of the iconic and highly admired ancestors rendered by Palmer, said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Inspired by the haven that is Inkwell Beach, Palmer depicts children strolling the beach, bouquets of flowers arranged in their hair like a crowned halo. Thus, Palmer gives flowers to the visionary African-American swimmers who in the 1940s began to swim in the still-segregated waves of the Inkwell. He gives flowers to the resilience of the Polar Bears that have gathered, rain or shine, for the last 75 years in morning prayer and collective joy.

Palmer’s illustrative technique is that of a dynamic visual story-teller. Youth jump off Jaws Bridge into an oceanic future of unknown possibility, a popular rite of passage in Martha’s Vineyard. In contrast, the young girl of In Her Eyes, as seen on the cover of Time Magazine in July 2020, is at a crossroads, a coming-of-age much too soon. As the roses from which she rises drip crimson blood-red, she tearfully grapples with her role in a fight she never asked to be a part of. Her chin is held high, just as the innocent child of Butterflies in a star-dusted meadow of mariposas.

Palmer’s mastery of color is realized through his use of highlights and shadows. Figures are contoured by colorful highlights, radiant and resplendent as if lit by prismatic sunlight. Gray-scale portraits with vibrant collaged bouquets are equally regal. Palmer weaves botanical beauties into the hair and at the feet of resplendent figures and in scenes of quotidian moments.

Flowers are found in nearly every work as sgraffito, collage or painting. These flowers encapsulate an ever-lasting emblem of respect and the cycle of life and death. They will not wilt and wither. The bouquets are analogous to the tight-knit community that gathers to protect and preserve the artistic legacy by and of the African diaspora.

As you journey with Charly through the exhibition, Giving Them Flowers invites you to consider who you are celebrating in their lifetime.