04 Jan The High Museum of Art Presents Local African American Folk Artist Nellie Mae Rowe
November 20, 1999
The High Museum of Art Presents Local African American Folk Artist Nellie Mae Rowe
Nellie Mae Rowe was born in Fayetteville Georgia on July 4, 1900. She was the 9th of 10 children. She was artistic at an early age; drawing and making dolls. However, life on a farm meant that she would have to do chores instead of art, especially with such a large family to help take care of. Her family attended Flat Rock African Methodist Episcopal Church which was founded in 1854.
She lived in Fayetteville with her first husband, Ben Wheat for 14 years before moving to Vinings. After her husband’s death in 1936 she met Henry “Buddy” Rowe. The home she lived in with Rowe would become her canvas where she could finally be creative again. She called it her “playhouse” and proceeded to decorate it with baubles and drawings, homemade dolls, sculptures and whatnots. The art would slow drivers, and attract visitors. Rowe met an art dealer and promoter in the late 1970s who immediately saw her talent and would become an advocate for her work. Exhibitions of Rowe’s art would go on to be shown in major cities.
Rowe was diagnosed with cancer in 1981 and died on October 18, 1982. She is buried at Flat Rock African Methodist Episcopal Church in Fayetteville.
The Art of Nellie Mae Rowe: Ninety-Nine and a Half Won’t Do exhibition show traced her development as an artist beginning in the 1940s. It included over 90 original works of colorful drawings and collages, mixed media sculptures, chewing gum figures and hand-sewn dolls. While Rowe’s work has consistently been recognized by those in the field of folk art, it had not until now been seen widely by the public
By Angela Pendleton
Sources: Fayette County News/Today in Peachtree City February 8-9 2014
High Museum of Art for Immediate Release, November 1, 1999