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Pet Sins October 2010

Willie Cole - making Malian sculptures and Buddhist symbols out of consumer objects

Willie Cole is well-known for making unique, dramatic sculptures and prints out of everyday objects such as irons, ironing boards, shoes, plumbing and blow dryers. While Cole's work draws from the artist's African American heritage, his creations are also influenced by Asian and West African art and spirituality.

Cole evokes African shields with decorated ironing boards. His Wind Mask East (1990), assembled from blow dryers, calls to mind a carved wall mask from Sri Lanka. His Sole to Soul collection of shoe sculptures evoke the open lotus, a reference to Cole's interest in Buddhism. With bicycle parts, he creates become a mother antelope figure with her child on her back in the style of a tji wara, the antelope spirit headdresses made by the Bamana people of Mali.

For images of Cole's work, see:

Anxious Objects: Willie Cole's Favorite Brands - Frye Art Museum

The Secret Life of Shoes: Willie Cole: Soul to Soul

Ironing out the contradictions in our consumer culture (Seattle Times 2007)

Anxious Objects: Willie Cole's Favorite Brands

A survey of Cole's methods, media, and themes from the late 1980s to the present, this book alson contains an interview with the artist by Dr. Leslie King-Hammond, Dean of the Maryland Institute of Art, as well as a commentary by Dr. Lowery Stokes Sims, President of the Studio Museum in Harlem.