Artist: Nancy Graves
Location: Third Floor

It is appropriate that McDermott Library owns a painting by Nancy Graves. Many of her works combine nature, science, and art to form a cartographic representation of part of the Earth. The interdisciplinary approach is similar to the curriculum of the University of Texas at Dallas.

Nancy was born in Massachusetts in 1940. She received a BA in English Literature from Vassar in 1961 and a BFA (1962) and a MFA from Yale in 1964. In 1964 she was awarded a Fulbright-Hayes fellowship to study painting in Paris. Some of her early work was in the form of life-sized sculptures of camels including a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in 1969. It was the first solo exhibition there by a woman.

By the early 1970s, she executed a series of paintings created from maps of ocean floors, maps of the meteorological conditions on the planet, and topographic maps of the Moon and Mars. She used satellite NASA maps for these paintings. The works were based on a detailed, technological view of the geographical unit while using a primitive stipple approach. The paintings included the surfaces of the Earth, Moon, and Mars.

In 1975, she created a series of paintings from orbital photos of Antarctica. An exhibit at the Janie C. Lee Gallery in Houston displayed 4 square paintings (2 were 60 inches by 60 inches and 2 were 48 inches by 48 inches). McDermott Library owns one of the larger paintings which hangs in the Library Dean’s office. Her technique featured oil and acrylic paint as well as wax. The backgrounds were white with a series of colored stipples to show topography on the continent.

According to Richard Channin in an article from Arts magazine in October 1975,
". . . ribbons of white paint squeezed directly from the tube onto the canvas and passages of vigorous parallel hatching may call to mind wind-driven snow or sleet. The cool late tonality accented occasionally by blue and touches of silver metallic paint evokes an atmosphere of freezing cold and dazzling glare of brilliant sunlight reflected from ice and snow."

Despite the fact that the paintings resemble maps, they show no legend, distance of scale, titles, or captions. Yet her map paintings demonstrate the connectedness between art and the detail of science.

After her work on Antarctica she explored various art forms including film making, choreography, and screen printing. Nancy also received several awards including the New York Dance and Performance Bessie Award for costume and set design in 1985 for Lateral Pass (dance), the Skowhegan Medal for Drawing/Graphics (1980), and an honorary degree from Skidmore College in 1989.

Nancy Graves was 55 years old when she died of ovarian cancer in 1995.

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