November 4, 2018
“Variability of Similar Forms”, Nancy Graves on view in the permanent collection of the Detroit Institute of Art. – This Berkshire native’s career was cut short but her output during her lifetime made her one of the most important sculptors of her generation. During this year of the woman when museums and galleries are digging into the untold history of female artists and offering prime spots in their schedules in an effort to diversify their programs, a survey of her work would be a natural for a regional museum to take on.
The irony of seeing this important and stunning work prominently displayed here is that the DIA (Detroit Institute of Art) is as famous for saving their art from deaccession crisis as the Berkshire Museum is infamous. In 2012 when the city was faced with bankruptcy and their art collection subject to sale, the community rose save it. Unfortunately for the Berkshires, our community was not given that opportunity and our state allowed a precedent setting sale to take place.
Read on for more about Nancy Graves and her work from an article in the New York Times from 1987 “Her comfortable use of elements from natural history stems from her childhood in Pittsfield, Mass. There she often visited the eclectic collection of paintings, paleontology, biology and mounted animals in the @BerkshireMuseum, where her father worked as the financial secretary. By the time she was 12, she was determined to be an artist.”
”Variability of Similar Forms,” made in 1970, is especially haunting. From drawings that Graves made of Pleistocene camel skeletons, she sculpted 36 individual leg bones in various positions, each nearly the height of a man, and arranged them upright in an irregular pattern on a wooden base. The effect is animated and bizarrely anthropomorphic, as if these leg bones are crowded together at a lively cocktail party.”
Excerpted from the New York Times “Forms of Fantasy”
– Cathleen McGuigan, DEC. 6, 1987
“Variability of Similar Forms,” 1970 steel, wax, marble dust and acrylic on wood base.