%C2%A9 Nellie Mae Rowe %2F Artists Rights Society %28ARS%29%2C New York

Rocking Chair, 1981

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In Rocking Chair, Nellie Mae Rowe presents a glimpse of her home, which she referred to as her “playhouse.” Nostalgic and eerily comforting, her composition is rich in detail and contrasting hues. Browns and greens ground the plants, animals, and windows, symbols of Rowe’s longing for connections to the outside. Small figures, possibly dolls, add life to the room. Rowe’s rocking chair sits center, its occupant absent.

Rowe created Rocking Chair soon after her diagnosis of terminal cancer, which took her life a year later. Details, like her empty chair and wilting plants, represent the fading of life. Dolls and quilt-like grids nod to a reminiscence of youth. Rowe’s longing to play contrasts with her strenuous early life, spent working, marrying, and following societal norms placed on women. Her final ode, to youth and the joys of creative freedom, complicate these traditional gender formalities.

“I ain’t gone to school to learn no work like that. I guessed at it when I was a little gal, just lay down on the floor and draw. See, we had to go to fields, pick cotton and all like that. I didn’t have a chance like I have now… I just had to go get my pencil and draw something. That was in me and it’s still in me.” - Nellie Mae Rowe

Details
Title
Rocking Chair
Artist Life
1900 - 1982
Role
Artist
Accession Number
2019.16.29
Curator Approved

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© Nellie Mae Rowe / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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