Born and raised in Berkeley, California, Crawford received her MFA in 1988 from the San Francisco Art Institute, with a year's residency at the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program in New York (1984-5). Prior to her art studies at SFAI, she held a graduate fellowship in U.C. Berkeley's Comparative Literature department after completing her B.A. there. Crawford is currently an Associate Professor of Painting at George Mason University's School of Art.