Really Free: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe


Really Free: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe


Untitled (Self-Portrait as a Little Girl Doll)

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Object Details


Nellie Mae Rowe, American, 1900–1982




Cloth, fiber stuffing, glass, plastic, paint, yarn, wig, metal, and folding chair


24 x 26 x 26 inches


Norfolk Southern Collection of Self-Taught Art

Accession #


Image Copyright

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


Rowe made her first dolls before she was ten years old out of her family’s clothing, and when she revived the practice as an adult, she again recycled material such as old stockings for their bodies and available fabric for their garments. These two examples, which portray her youthful self and her art gallerist Judith Alexander, show how she detailed them with wigs, necklaces, glasses, and other accessories. She called her dolls her “children,” and they proved to be powerful messengers of her legacy. It was reportedly a doll that was included in a 1978 Nexus artists’ cooperative exhibition that led Alexander to give Rowe her first solo exhibition.