Exposition Art Blog: Nellie Mae Rowe - American Folk Art

Nellie Mae Rowe - American Folk Art

"Nellie Mae Rowe was a self-taught African-American artist known for her unique drawings and sculptures of the rural South. Using everyday materials, including chewing gum, markers, egg cartons, and food trays, she melded personal mythology with Christian symbolism. “I feel great being an artist. I didn't even know that I would ever become one. It is just surprising to me,” she once said. Born Nellie Mae Williams on July 4, 1900 in Fayetteville, GA, the artist grew up on her father’s sharecropping farm where she showed an early propensity for drawing and crafts. Married to her first husband Ben Wheat in 1916, she worked mostly as farm hand over the next few decades. After the death of her second husband Henry Rowe in 1948, she began devoting much of her time to creating dolls and paintings. Around this time, Rowe began setting up works in her front yard, inviting visitors to come look as she played gospel tunes on an electric organ. She was first brought to the attention of a larger audience after her inclusion in the 1976 exhibition “Missing Pieces: Georgia Folk Art 1770­–1976.” Rowe died on October 18, 1982 in Vinnings, GA. Today, her works are held in the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, among others."(artnet)


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