Really Free: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe


Really Free: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe


Untitled (Nellie Sitting by the Window)

A photograph of Nellie Mae Rowe sitting by a window is framed within a blue crayon-drawn home with yellow and red accents; two blue animals float above the photograph.

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Object Details


Nellie Mae Rowe, American, 1900–1982




Color photograph, crayon, and pencil on board


14 1/2 x 19 1/2 inches


Gift of Judith Alexander

Accession #


Image Copyright

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


While Rowe was making her Playhouse, art environments attracted attention from scholars studying the African diaspora. Rowe’s use of “haint” blue on the exterior of her home, which she depicts here in a richer indigo tone, was among the practices that were thought to show the retention of African traditions. The Congolese belief that evil spirits, which became known in the American South as “haints,” could not cross sky or water is thought to have been the source of the many exteriors, roofs, and thresholds painted blue throughout the region.