Chakaia Booker is an African American artist who was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1953.
Booker received a Bachelor of Art in Sociology from Rutgers University in 1976. She then received her Master of Fine Arts from the City College of New York (CUNY) in 1993. Now in her fifties, Booker has studied a variety of different subjects including African dance, ceramics, weaving, basketry as well as t'ai chi which all contribute to her interesting artistic practices. Booker always felt the need to utilize these skills differently as a means of experimentation and play. These skills were all translated into a tool for creating her elaborate sculptures.
“Like her sculptures, Booker is a carefully assembled and richly layered individual who sees herself as a sculpture through her tasks of dressing, sewing, cooking, and other daily activities which she considers to be art forms in their own rights." Beginning in the 1980s Booker created wearable sculptures which she could place herself inside and utilize as clothing. “The wearable garment sculpture was about getting energy and feeling from a desired design.”
Booker continues to create a wearable sculpture in response to the materials which she uses in her current work. From her creations of wearable sculptures in the 1980’s, Booker began to create work from discarded materials which she found at conduction sites. These found materials each had its own purpose, history, and use which she finds interesting. This search for discarded materials brings us to the “rubber tire” from which her most notorious work is created.
Tread patterns and repetitive geometric shapes throughout Booker’s work are reminiscent of traditional African textiles. “Overall the tires characterize, symbolize, and or signify a toughness, linked to the will of the African diaspora for continued survival .
Her 2001 piece "Wench (Wrench) III" is a surrealistic sculpture which subverts a very masculine mechanic's wrench into a feminine feather boa. The piece "Spirit Hunter" is reminiscent of images of life and death as well as a feminist approach to birth and sexuality. Booker’s concerns throughout her work are culturally diverse in regards to mankind and her explorations into the endeavors of the human race allow for her a better understanding of situations than perhaps an ordinary person might endure.
Chaikaia Booker currently works and resides in New York City. Her artistic career has enabled her to part of the permanent collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Akron Museum of Art, The Max Protetch and June Kelly galleries in New York and others as well. She has participated in both group and or solo exhibitions in such places as the Neuberger Museum of Art, the Akron Museum of Art, Marlborough gallery, the Sandler Hudson Gallery in Atlanta, Georgia, and the P.S.I. Contemporary Art Center in Queens, as well as in the “Twentieth Century American Sculpture” exhibition held at the White House in 1996. On June 22, 2008, Booker unveiled "Chaikaia Booker: Mass Transit", in Indianapolis, Indiana. This public art exhibition features 10 sculptures "created by the artist following her visit to Indianapolis and her researching of the city’s history and heritage."