Graves was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Her interest in art, nature, and anthropology was fostered by her father, an accountant at a local museum. After graduating from Vassar College in English Literature, Graves attended Yale University, where she received her bachelor's and master's degrees. After her graduation in 1964, she received a Fulbright Scholarship and studied painting in Paris. Continuing her international travels, she then moved on to Florence. During the rest of her life, she would also travel to New York, Morocco, Germany, and Canada.Graves's most famous sculpture, Camels, was first displayed in the Whitney Museum of American Art. The sculpture features three separate camels, each made of many materials, among them burlap, wax, figerglass, and animal skin. Each camel is also painted with acrylics and oil colors to appear realistic. The camels are now stored in the National Gallery of Canada, and two later "siblings" reside in the Neue Galerie der Stadt Aachen in Germany.
Graves also created a distinctive body of aerial landscapes, mostly based on maps of the moon and similar sources. Below is a link to an example (VI Maskeyne Da Region of the Moon). Author Margret Dreikausen (1985) writes extensively of Graves's aerial works as part of a broader discussion of the aerial view and its importance in modern and contemporary art.