On view through January 9, 2022
In the last decade and a half of her life, Nellie Mae Rowe reclaimed the love of art making she had experienced as a child. She began drawing with frequency and decorated her home and yard, which she called her “Playhouse,” with found-object installations, handmade dolls, and sculpture made from chewing gum and other reused material.
As the first major exhibition on Rowe in nearly twenty years, Really Free offers a new look at the many dimensions of her practice and recontextualizes her bold decision not to go quietly into her final years. Her choice to practice art was a way of demanding the respect and visibility that she had so long been denied as a Black woman living in the American South. Though her work rarely directly addressed political or social concerns, it emerged from a radical act of self-affirmation and liberation that allowed her to imagine and create a world many degrees more beautiful than the one she knew.
Really Free draws on the Museum’s leading collection of Rowe’s work, presenting nearly fifty of her drawings, the majority of which come from the generous gifts that Rowe’s friend and gallerist Judith Alexander made to the Museum between 1998 and 2003. The exhibition, which is accompanied by a fully illustrated multi-contributor catalogue, will also feature reconstructions of her Playhouse that were created for a forthcoming documentary on Rowe to be released by the New York-based firm Opendox in 2022.
Banner image: View of Nellie Mae Rowe’s Playhouse from the film set of This World is Not My Own. Courtesy of Opendox. Photo by Petter Ringbom.
Exhibition catalogue available for purchase at the Museum Shop and at museumshop.high.org. Members receive 10% off Shop purchases.
Tuesday, October 12, 1–2:30 p.m.
Members: $14; Not-Yet-Members: $18
Inquiring Minds invites participants to explore key artworks, artists, and themes on view at the High through small group conversation facilitated by museum educators. The October session will focus on Really Free. These sessions are participatory in nature—they are not lectures. Come as you are, with your observations, ideas, questions, and opinions.
Exploring Folk and Self-Taught Art at the High
Thursdays, October 14–November 4, 1–2:30 p.m.
Members: $200; Not-Yet-Members: $250
This multiweek course, led by Katherine Jentleson, Merrie and Dan Boone Curator of Folk and Self-Taught Art, will explore the High’s permanent Folk and Self-Taught collection and examine two major exhibitions, Gatecrashers and Really Free. These sessions will take place on-site at the High with an off-site visit in the Atlanta area.
LINK: Really Free: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe
LINK is a new digital platform from the High that extends the reach of the Museum’s collection and exhibitions by providing new ways to experience them online. Learn more about Nellie Mae Rowe’s life and artwork, explore the galleries of the exhibition, and see how other people have responded to her work in both historic and present-day guestbooks by going to link.rowe.high.org.