Chakaia Booker and her sculptures arrive on New York Avenue

March 9, 2012

A rubber tire is a rubber tire, right? Not when Chakaia Booker takes this recycled material and transforms tires into towering sculptures.


“Shapeshifter” by Chakaia Booker is part of the New York Avenue Sculpture Project (Photo by Daniel Swartz)

For this display, Booker created a new work called “Shapeshifter.” It could be the wings of a prehistoric bird. Or perhaps the connecting rod between the two wings is a seat and it swings. Whatever it is, it’s strong, never to be beaten. Booker said her inspiration was “life.”

Standing in a cluster of well-wishers inside the museum’s grand hall, Booker said she liked the outdoor space, even with the island lined by Washington’s hefty office buildings and the historic home of the museum.

“Anywhere an artist exhibits is a wonderful space,’’ she said.

Booker’s work, shown at the Women’s Museum in 2006, has deep connections to her African American heritage. She has talked about the tire treads reminding her of scarification and tatoos. “The work is abstract. It speaks for itself,” said Booker on Thursday. The artist is as striking as her art, wearing a vivid combination of robes and pants, topped by a folded headdress with material flowing over her shoulders.

Booker was born in Newark, N.J., and lives in New York and Allentown, Pa. She was selected for the Whitney Biennial in 2000 and won a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2005.

The New York Avenue Sculpture Project features the work of women artists. The first displayed the colorful sculptures of Niki de Saint Phalle.

A number of groups support the museum’s effort, including the Downtown DC Business Improvement District, the DC Office of Planning and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. Jack Evans, who represents the museum’s ward on the D.C. Council, said the project made the whole area more liveable. “Our town continues to revitalize itself,” Evans said.

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