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What it is

Folk and Self-Taught Art

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What it is

Artwork Details


Nellie Mae Rowe
American, 1900–1982




Crayon, colored pencil, and pencil on paper

Accession #



Please contact the Museum for more information.


Currently Out on Loan


Rowe visualizes herself as a child, confidently walking down Paces Ferry Road, her ribbons forming a kind of halo as she goes. “What it is” is a popular greeting—akin to “What’s up?”—but Rowe also used it as an artistic statement that reflected the mysteries she was content to let remain unsolved in her work. “Most of the things that I draw, I don’t know what they are by name. People say, ‘Nellie, what is that?’ I say I don’t know, it is what it is. That is all I know. But I know one thing, I draw what is in my mind.”


Gift of Judith Alexander

Image Copyright

© Estate of Nellie Mae Rowe/High Museum of Art, Atlanta.