Nellie Mae Rowe (1900–1982), Woman Scolding Her Companion, 1981
Pastel, colored pencil, crayon, marker, on cardboard, 29 1/4 x 32 in.; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
Rowe registers a humorous complaint about excessive male sexual demands in Woman Scolding Her Companion. The woman, Rowe herself, assumes a combative posture and turns away a peculiar creature that resembles a penis with a dog’s body. Other images adorn the drawing and enforce the central topic: between the two antagonists is a phallic staff with a smiling male face (virtually identical to dance wands used by the Yoruba of Nigeria in rituals honoring Shango the Thundergod); a fruit bowl–or fountain or birdbath–surmounted by an erupting green apple. On the side of the bowl, there appears to be a slice of watermelon, an obscure but specific sexual innuendo, and several small imaginary animals, all sexually referenced.
Nellie Mae Rowe (1900-1982) was raised on her parent’s farm in Fayette County, Georgia. From a young age, she worked in the fields, drawing and nurturing her creativity at every chance she got. It was not until her second husband, Henry Rowe, died in 1948 that she found the time as an adult to develop her artistic practice. Soon her house and yard - her "playhouse" as she called it - were filled with her artwork: drawings, dolls, chewing gum sculptures, and assemblages made of cast-off objects. In the 1970s, towards the end of her life, the art world began taking notice of Rowe’s work, with her first solo exhibition being held at the Atlanta Historical Society in 1976.
Nellie Mae Rowe’s work is in numerous permanent collections, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The National Gallery of Art, and the High Museum of Art.
Learn more about Nellie Mae Rowe here.
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