Born in 1922 in Richmond, Virginia, Nell Blaine was a rebellious only child, a loner fussed over by her mother. Her early years were plagued by serious vision problems, finally corrected in her teens. She was active in extracurricular clubs in both high school and college, where she encountered avant-garde art for the first time. Although she had to drop out of college after two years for financial reasons, she took an evening class in painting that helped her connect with new ideas in art. Meanwhile, she worked at an advertising agency, gaining experience that would stand her in good stead years later when she needed to earn a living. At age twenty, she left for Manhattan, ignoring the pleas and threats of her mother.
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