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Chakaia
Booker
Year created: 
1997
The Conversationalist, Chakaia Booker
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20' x 21' x 12'

Rubber tires and wood
Lent by the Artist, Courtesy Marlborough Gallery, New York, NY

In 2002, ArtNews magazine called Chakaia Booker the "Queen of Rubber Soul". Using tires as her medium, Booker refers to notions of mobility and transportation, labor, industry, and the human condition as a whole. She takes this relatively rigid, durable material, and gives it flexibility by cutting, shaping, folding, and arranging the pieces to create sculptures with multiple surfaces and textures. Sliced pieces of tire are closely assembled in an overlapping pattern, creating a spiky, yet wispy effect. The Conversationalist has a feathered appearance reminiscent of a textile or perhaps a tattoo. Booker does reference her African heritage in her sculptures, and her works are influenced by African art, highly patterned fabrics, and the tradition of scarification.

Like an actual conversation, this piece physically represents a gradual building of elements that climax at a point of tension or harmony. The many angles of this sculpture create negative spaces that represent opposing arguments and varying opinions. Beginning with conflict and disagreement at its base, the form labors to break free of emotional constraints as it pushes towards the sky and comes to a realization. While independently complex, the two segments that define the overall layout of the sculpture arrive at a final point of accord at the apex.

Symbolically, Booker's sculptural "conversation" explores the potential for unity and understanding that would ideally originate from conversations between those of different beliefs and values. Booker believes that "art is a storytelling, but the story is open, fluid, mysterious." The artist seeks to encourage viewers to contribute to the story and challenges them to defend their principles and ideals while maintaining an open mind towards shades of difference.