An Artist Whose Material Blows My Mind: Chakaia Booker


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Chakaia Booker is a sculptor who works with found materials, most often rubber tires. She does some free standing work, some public work, and some relief sculpture work. Most of her rubber tire work references globalization, industrialization, and humanity’s reliance on material things, like cars. It is also said that her sculptures are about African-American history, both their struggles and hardships as well as the different arts of African Americans. I think her reference to globalization and the material world can easily be seen because of her material choice and how viewers can automatically think of cars and construction when they see the rubber. I think seeing the reference to African American history is more difficult, however after reading about the connections I found it made sense. For example, the color of the rubber is the first indicator of the meaning. Also, the different treads on the rubber are meant to symbolize the scarification seen in many African tribes, and the treads can also be seen as the textiles or basketry made in African tribes. The different colors and tones of the rubber can be seen as humanity’s diversity. Some of the tires she uses are new and others are very obviously old, which resemble the aging of human skin. Most of her were is very organic in form, it swoops and curls and twists. I think that organic tendency definitely reminds the viewer of human existence–our lives twist and turn and do not follow a specific path.

I think Booker’s work is really interesting. I really like that she uses a strange material that one would not usually think of using and I think her material really adds to her overall meaning. I like her smaller sculptures and large public work the best because of the very obvious form in them.


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