Really Free: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe


Really Free: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe


Untitled (Woman with Red Fish)

Navy blue bordered drawing of bright red fish with split tail and curved top fin, a tiny blue bird in upper left and snake with human head in bottom right.

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Object Details


Nellie Mae Rowe, American, 1900–1982


before 1978


Crayon and pencil on paper


18 x 24 inches


Gift of Andy Nasisse for the Nasisse Collection

Accession #


Image Copyright

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


A frequent character in Nellie Mae Rowe’s art is a large, bright fish. As a devout Christian, Rowe often illustrated her lifelong walk with the Lord and considered art making an act of prayer. Fish often symbolize the Christian faith as well as fertility and female sexuality. In this drawing of a fish in a fantastical sea, a female figure swims below at a distance, exemplifying reverence. Rowe was never able to have children, so this drawing may also serve as a reference to her reproductive struggles.