Time’s poignant new cover declares ‘America Must Change’

The magazine’s new double issue addressing racism in the USA features five evocative works by Atlanta-based artist Charly Palmer, including a commissioned portrait of a child showing the injustices on her mind

America Must Change cover by Charly Palmer
Time magazine’s America Must Change cover by Charly Palmer

The new double issue of Time magazine features five paintings evoking racial injustice by Atlanta-based artist, illustrator and designer Charly Palmer, one of which is featured on the cover. The issue, titled America Must Change, comes after the death of George Floyd, who was killed by Minnesota police at the end of May, and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests around the USA and beyond.

The cover artwork, In Her Eyes, shows the profile of a young girl, inspired by a friend’s nine-year-old daughter, whose head is filled with images of police brutality, riots and fires. By contrast, the girl’s torso is replaced by a vibrant floral display, a staple of Palmer’s work since his mother passed away in 2008. The flowers represent “a symbol of beauty that, at times serve as a distraction to the harsh realities that accompany Black life”, according to a release – although here, even the flowers are bleeding.

Charly Palmer Time Magazine America Must Change
Remembering George, a portrait of George Stinney Jr. who was wrongly sentenced to death in 1944 at the age of 14

Featured inside the issue is a portrait of revered novelist and playwright James Baldwin, as well as a painting of George Stinney Jr, a Black 14-year-old from South Carolina who in 1944 became the youngest person to be executed in the USA for a wrongful murder charge. He was exonerated 70 years after his death. “George Stinney is a subject I’ve painted many times. It is important for us to continue to remember him and his horrible story,” Palmer said in a statement.

Also included is a painting of a boy saturated in patriotic colours with the words ‘public sale’ looming over his head – a direct reference to a sign at a slave auction. The artwork forms part of Palmer’s Silent series, which examines how Black ideas and opinions are muted.

Charly Palmer Time Magazine America Must Change
An artwork reflecting a sign at a slave auction

All of Palmer’s artworks featured in the issue reference American iconography, whether the translucent stars and stripes flag layered over the faces of his subjects, or the road map embedded in his artwork Eminent Domain, which reflects on Black communities being displaced by government activities, such as the construction of interstate highways.

“Little Black children today are afraid,” Palmer said in reference to the cover artwork. “I am a child of the 60s 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.”

Charly Palmer Time Magazine America Must Change
Eminent Domain refers to governmental plans displace Black communities