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  • Nellie Mae Rowe Bio Image
  • Nellie Mae Rowe

    United States

    Art Brokerage: Nellie Mae Rowe African American Folk Artist: b. 1900-1982. Nellie Mae Rowe was born and raised in a Fayette County farming community twenty miles south of Atlanta. A creative and resourceful self-taught artist, Nellie Mae Rowe gained national recognition for her work during the last decade of her life. After the death of her second husband, Rowe turned their home into her personal playhouse, decorating all available space, inside and out, with her fanciful creations. A devout Christian, she attributed her talent to God. Rowe's multifaceted work illustrates her personal mythology, her response to current events and popular culture, and an assimilation of African American spiritual and narrative traditions. Rowe's distinctive style shows an intuitive sense of color and form. She preferred simple materials—crayons, markers, pencils, pens, paper, cardboard, egg cartons, and Styrofoam food trays—and enjoyed creating works of art from recycled objects by fashioning figures from chewing gum or dolls from fabric scraps. Trinkets, marbles, and plastic toys often embellish her work. Rowe also drew on or added collage elements to cast-off items to create new pieces of art. Rowe's unorthodox view of life has left an indelible mark on the study of self-taught southern artists. Her work is included in numerous private and public collections, including the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Library of Congress American Folklife Center in Washington, D.C., and the American Folk Art Museum in New York.

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