For four months I’ve been walking by the recycled tire sculptures of Chakaia Booker on the Michael Graves terrace at the Arts Council of Princeton, thinking ok, I need to find out more about this artist. Then, I spotted her at the gala for the Brodsky Center for Innovative Print and Papermaking, wearing this headdress, and I knew I was a fan. The beautiful cloths and colors and patterns and the way she has arranged them, wearing them so boldly, strikes me in direct contrast to the rubber tire sculptures, but yet of the same family.
Here’s what it says about her on the ACP site (and, by the way, her sculpture will be there through July 10):
“Formally inventive, rhythmic, and imbued with enormous presence, the works are at once lyrical and powerful. Both the scale and the light-absorbing quality of the rich black sculptures make them ideal for display outdoors.
“Booker views herself as a ‘narrative environmental’ sculptor whose work acknowledges the struggles and the victories in human aspirations and involvement. ‘My art focuses on social and cultural issues, on being female, and on the creative diversity of found objects which are metamorphosed into works of art. The work expresses my observations of life.'”
Interestingly, she studied sociology at Rutgers before earning an MFA at City College. Here’s what Wikipedia says about her:
“Like her sculptures, Booker is a carefully assembled and richly layered individual who sees herself as 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 1980s, Booker began to create work from discarded materials which she found at construction 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.”
The good news is, if you want more Chakaia Booker, she’ll be exhibiting at Grounds For Sculpture in May, with a special talk May 2. Watch a video about her here.