1940 – 1995
Nancy Graves’s personal aesthetic emerged in the later 1960s in the form of realistic life-size sculptures of camels. These works were rooted in her childhood memories of the animals preserved by taxidermists in the Natural History section of the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts and in the idioms of Abstract Expressionism taught at the Yale University School of Art where she was a student in the early 1960s. The interplay between the replication of nature and the formal values of abstract art was to inform her work throughout her life.
Transposing concepts from one medium to another, she continuously infused her work with new and innovative ideas. Visual representations of natural phenomena like weather maps, and the moon maps made by NASA, inspired her paintings, drawings and prints of the early 70s. The outlines of her maps, reduced to linear abstractions in flat works of the later 70s, were translated into three dimensional drawings in space in Graves’s sculpture of the 1980s. These abstract structures, painted with colorful patinas that reflected the brilliant tones of her paintings, watercolors and prints, were associated with the real world by the found objects and casts of natural and man-made forms. Graves’ work has been exhibited internationally in major museums and galleries, including the Whitney Museum of American Art and MOMA, New York, and the National Gallery of Canada.