SPRINGFIELD — Born on the Fourth of July in 1900, Nellie Mae Rowe spent the first half of her life working — as a girl on her family’s farm in Fayette County, Georgia, then as a wife, twice widowed, and as a domestic. But in the late...
Self-Taught Artists Take Center Stage At High Museum Of Art In Atlanta, With Nellie Mae Rowe In Spotlight
A great art museum simultaneously serves as a global and local institution, bringing global artwork to its local audience and introducing local artists to a global audience. On the heels of saying “goodbye” to an exhibition featuring two of the most celebrated artists in world history–Pablo Picasso and Alexander Calder–the High Museum of Art in Atlanta now shines its spotlight on a local artist deserving more acclaim: Nellie Mae Rowe.
Every Sunday, Cathi Perry and her sisters visited their aunt Nellie Mae Rowe at her “Playhouse” in Vinings. “Nothing was off limits at Aunt Nellie’s house,” Perry recalls, describing afternoons spent eating pound cake, drawing pictures with crayons on notebook paper, and making jewelry from scrap materials. Rowe turned her home into a world of her own imagination, adorning floor to ceiling and ground to tree branch with masks, found objects, dolls, chewing-gum sculptures, and hundreds of drawings.
Cost: $16.50 General Admission, Members Free. Really Free: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe (Sept. 3, 2021-Jan. 9, 2022) — For the last 15 years of her life, self-taught artist Nellie Mae Rowe (1900-1982) lived on a busy thoroughfare just outside of Atlanta and welcomed visitors to her “Playhouse,” which she decorated with found-object installations, handmade dolls, chewing-gum sculptures, and hundreds of drawings. Featuring nearly 60 works from the High’s collection, “Really Free” is the first major exhibition of Rowe’s work in more than 20 years and the first to consider her practice as a radical act of self-expression and liberation in the post-civil rights era South.
Self-taught creator from Vinings gets first comprehensive exhibit in two decades. When passersby in sleepy Vinings saw Nellie Mae Rowe’s decorated yard, packed with handmade dolls and chewing gum sculptures and beads and wigs hanging from trees, they didn’t know what to make of it. Some gawked. Some thought she...