Traveling Exhibition Dates:
Springfield Museum of Art: March 19, 2022–July 1, 2022
Hunter Museum: January 27–May 1, 2023.
During the last fifteen years of her life, Nellie Mae Rowe (1900–1982) lived on Paces Ferry Road, a major thoroughfare in Vinings, Georgia, and welcomed visitors to her “Playhouse,” which she decorated with found-object installations, handmade dolls, chewing-gum sculptures, and hundreds of drawings.
Based on the High’s leading collection of Rowe’s art, Really Free is the first major exhibition of her work in more than twenty years and the first to consider her practice as a radical act of self-expression and liberation in the post-civil rights-era South. Rowe created her first works as a child in rural Fayetteville, Georgia, but only found the time and space to reclaim her artistic practice in the late 1960s, following the deaths of her second husband and her longtime employer.
The exhibition offers an unprecedented view of how she cultivated her drawing practice late in life, starting with colorful and at times simple sketches on found materials and moving toward her most celebrated, highly complex compositions on paper. Through photographs and reconstructions of her Playhouse created for an experimental documentary on her life, the exhibition is also the first to put her drawings in direct conversation with her art environment.
This exhibition is organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.