Really Free: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe


Really Free: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe


Untitled (Chewing-Gum Sculpture)

Light purple sculpture of cat-like body and amorphous face with red mouth in O-shape, long mustache of hair, and plastic red flowers at crown of head and back of body. It wears a necklace of white beads and crouches on a flat trivet.

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Object Details


Nellie Mae Rowe, American, 1900–1982


before 1978


Chewing gum, plastic flowers, marker, plastic beads, and hair on trivet


9 1/2 x 5 1/2 x 6 inches


Gift of Judith Alexander

Accession #


Image Copyright

© Estate of Nellie Mae Rowe/High Museum of Art, Atlanta.


Chewing gum was a way Rowe had been advised to treat ongoing headaches, which she called “the jumping in her head”; she kept what was left over, kneaded it into creature shapes, and chilled them in the freezer. Their once minty smell is something that artist Betye Saar, who visited Rowe after seeing one of her works at the California Museum of Art and Craft in the late 1970s, still remembers.