Really Free: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe


Really Free: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe


What it is

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Object Details


Nellie Mae Rowe, American, 1900–1982




Crayon, colored pencil, and pencil on paper


21 x 21 1/4 inches


Gift of Judith Alexander

Accession #


Image Copyright

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


Rowe visualizes herself as a child, confidently walking down Paces Ferry Road, her ribbons forming a kind of halo as she goes. “What it is” is a popular greeting—akin to “What’s up?”—but Rowe also used it as an artistic statement that reflected the mysteries she was content to let remain unsolved in her work. “Most of the things that I draw, I don’t know what they are by name. People say, ‘Nellie, what is that?’ I say I don’t know, it is what it is. That is all I know. But I know one thing, I draw what is in my mind.”