Artworks and Artists
Camel VI

Camel VI,
Graves, Nancy
wood, steel, burlap, polyurethane, animal skin, wax, oil paint
228.6 x 365.8 x 121.9 cm (approx.)


Nancy Graves’s work draws from many sources, including anthropology, anatomy, biology, and natural history. She liked sculpture because it allowed her to articulate her personal ideas about the technical and visual problems of display. The natural forms of Susini, the eighteenth-century anatomist, inspired her to choose the natural form of the camel to explore these ideas. Michael Edward Shapiro states that her camel sculptures "marked the beginning of Graves’s journey into what can be called the anatomy of sculpture making, a self-conscious inquiry into ways of making sculptures that are about both the outsides and the insides of natural forms."

Although she devoted herself to both painting and sculpture, Graves’s reputation was first established with her life-size sculptures of Bactrian camels. She chose the Bactrian camel as a subject because it had not been explored in Western art, and because the animal’s structure allowed her to articulate elements of sculpture such as weight, gravity, mass, form, and spatial relationships. She was also attracted by their size, their softness, and their exotic appearance. In her own words, the emphasis is always on the visual as opposed to the scientific."