Born in Newark, NJ, Chakaia Booker received a BA in Sociology from Rutgers University and her MFA from the City College of New York (CUNY). Her studies in African dance, ceramics, weaving, basketry and tai-chi helped inform her early elaborate work, including wearable sculptures in which she’d place herself and utilize as clothing. She often used discarded materials found at construction sites. This scavanging eventually lead to working with rubber tires for which she is best known today. The various tread patterns, colors and widths create a palette for Booker similar to that of a painter.
Booker’s sculptures often address issues of identity. Echoes in Black, from the 2000 Whitney Biennial, deals with both the emotional and physical issues that people experience in life through class, race, and labor. Her 2001 piece, Wench (Wrench) III, is a surrealistic sculpture that transforms and subverts the masculine (mechanics wrench) into the feminine (a feather boa). Booker’s work is included in the permanent collections at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Akron Museum of Art, and the Max Protetch and June Kelly galleries in New York. She has participated in exhibitions at the Neuberger Museum of Art, Akron Museum of Art, PSI Contemporary Art Center in Queens and the Twentieth Century American Sculpture exhibition at the White House.
In 2008, Booker unveiled Chakaia Booker: Mass Transit, a public art exhibition in Indianapolis featuring ten sculptures, and in fall 2009 her work debuted in the Aviation Park Sculpture Garden across from the Moore campus. Booker lives and works in New York City. She is represented by Marlborough Gallery.