Mehretu was born in Ethiopia and raised in the United States. She is an MFA graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, and has studied at the Core Artists in Residence Program in Houston, Texas. She was a 2002–2003 artist-in-residence at the Walker Art Center, where she worked with East African high schoolers on a multimedia project, and had a summer 2003 exhibition of nine commissioned paintings in Gallery 7. Mehretu’s work was also part of the 2001 Walker exhibit Painting at the Edge of the World. More recently, her paintings and drawings been shown in London, Korea, and Lithuania, and have been included in several exhibitions in her current hometown of New York City (including Drawing Now: Eight Propositions at the Museum on Modern Art in Queens, (2002).