Don't Tread on Me: Sculpture by Chakaia Booker

Exhibition Website

Jun 1 2014 - Oct 31 2017

Chakaia Booker's exhibition has been extended at Governors State University's Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park through October of 2017 to coincide with her works' recent installation at Millennium Park  with Millennium Park and The 606 .

Throughout her career, Chakaia Booker has explored the expressive possibilities of unusual materials. She is best known for her work with discarded automobile tires, which she cuts into pieces of varying length, width, and shape—and fastens onto wooden or metal armatures. She builds indoor and outdoor sculptures ranging in scale from intimate wall pieces to large public works.

Booker culls rich effects from her material. She slices and folds tires into small teardrop and tray shapes, diamonds, daggers, and more, then attaches dozens of identical pieces onto the armature to make rhythmic patterns and textures. To activate the surface, she mounts some tire fragments with the tread facing outward. She may bend fragments backwards to show the tire's smooth, somewhat shiny interior.  
The artist uses automobile, truck, motorcycle, and bicycle tires, whatever is available. Manufacturers change their products every year, she says, which means that she constantly gets new treads and textures to work with. The colors vary too, particularly on the inside, from different shades of black to subdued yellows, purples, greens, and blues.

Booker's work recalls textile, which was her first material. As a child, she learned sewing from her aunt, grandmother, and sister. When she grew older, she altered her own clothes to accommodate her height and long arms. Later she began to make wearable art pieces and sculptures, adding discarded bones and wood scraps into them.

 In the 1980s, she decided to make public sculptures and sought a material that would be durable outdoors. Tires were cheap and easy to find. Friends helped her load them onto trucks and carry them to her studio. She sees her use of tires as a personal statement on humanity's relationship to the environment and our responsibility for contaminating it.

Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.

  • Sculpture
  • American
  • Contemporary
  • Chakaia Booker

Exhibition Venues & Dates