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Really Free: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe celebrates a preeminent and underrecognized figure of twentieth-century American art, contextualizing Rowe's
practice as a radical act of self-expression and liberation for a Black woman artist living and working in the American South. Featuring more than one hundred works
exploring themes of girlhood, play, and spirituality, the Brooklyn Museum iteration is the first devoted to Rowe in New York City in more than twenty years.
Autobiographical drawings, experimental sculpture, and renderings of Rowe's “Playhouse”—an environment the artist built and lived in for decades—capture the
artist's assertion of independence and accessible means of art production. During the last fifteen years of her life,
Born in Fayette County, Georgia, at the turn of the twentieth century, Rowe discovered her passion for art-making early on, producing drawings and cloth dolls as a child. However, the demands of her family farm, an early marriage, and
decades of employment as a domestic laborer made it difficult for Rowe to create for many decades. After the deaths of her second husband and her longtime employers in the 1960s, Rowe wholeheartedly returned to her art, devoting the rest of her life to realizing her creative calling. Her dedication resulted in a practice that was immersive, idiosyncratic, and joyous.
A publication, produced by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, and DelMonico Books/DAP, was created for the High Museum of Art's presentation of Really Free:
The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe and will be available for purchase at the Brooklyn Museum.
Really Free: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe is organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, and curated by Dr. Katherine Jentleson, Merrie and Dan Boone Curator of Folk and Self-Taught Art, High Museum of Art. The Brooklyn Museum presentation is organized by Catherine Morris, Sackler Senior Curator, and Jenée-Daria Strand, Curatorial Associate, Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Brooklyn Museum.