Really Free: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe presents an exhibition of 58 works by the self-taught Georgia artist, set against the backdrop of the civil rights movement in the South of the 1960s. Rowe (1900-1982) saw art making as a radical act of self-expression and liberation that took many forms including found-object installations, handmade dolls, chewing-gum sculptures, and hundreds of drawings. The focus of her creative output was a "Playhouse" where she welcomed visitors, situated along a major thoroughfare in Vinings, Georgia.
Organized by the High Museum of Art (Atlanta) from their leading collection of Rowe's art, Really Free is the first major exhibition of her work in more than twenty years. The exhibition offers an unprecedented view of how she cultivated her drawing practice late in life, following the deaths of her second husband and her longtime employer. Starting with colorful and at times simple sketches on found materials, the works move toward her most celebrated, highly complex compositions on paper. Through photographs and other references to her Playhouse, the exhibition is also the first to put her drawings in direct conversation with her art environment.
Support for this exhibition and publication is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Major funding for this exhibition and publication is provided by Judith Alexander and Henry Alexander. Generous support for the national tour is provided by Art Bridges.