Chakaia Booker

Chakaia Booker

Chakaia Booker, hailed as the “Queen of Rubber Soul”, was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1953. She received a Bachelor of Art in Sociology from Rutgers University in 1976 and a Master of Fine Arts from the City College of New York in 1993.

In the 1980s Booker, began creating wearable sculptures which she places herself inside and utilizes as clothing. Those wearable sculptures are often giant headpieces made of multicolored yarn or necklaces and vests constructed from inner tubes. "I get up each morning and begin my day sculpting myself," Booker says. "It's not that it's a mirroring of exactly what I do (as an artist), but it is about coming to the creative moment right off the start.”

From her wearable sculptures in the 1980’s, Booker began to create artwork from discarded materials that she would find at construction sites. This method introduced her to the rubber tire, which is used in some of her most notorious work. The various tread patterns, colors, and widths the tires create a palette for Booker similar to the palette of painter. Many of her sculptures draw upon African influences such as tribal body paint, scarification and textiles.

The two sculptures on display at the Atlanta Botanical Garden began with steel frames that Booker carefully layered with cut tires. "It takes a lot of body work," laughs Booker, who explains how she must first cut through the tire’s structural bands of steel. "The tires can weigh 15 to 20 pounds, and you're going through thousands of them." Because many of the tires used in her work have steel belts, many of her sculptures have sharp edges and should not be touched.

Her works have been shown all over the country in many private and public collections, including a solo exhibition at SCAD Atlanta in 2010. The Georgia Museum of Art in Athens is currently displaying her work through April 28, 2013 in a show called Defiant Beauty: The Work of Chakaia Booker.

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