Willie Cole (he/him) creates the same way that nature does — by replicating and multiplying a single cell (object) until it becomes something new. Cole has been described as a Recycler, a Revelator, a Transformer, and a Perceptual Engineer.
Allowing a viewer to experience thoughts of the past, the present, and the future all at once marks success for Cole. In the artist’s water bottle assemblages, for example, the past is inferred by my decision to employ ancient tribal weaving techniques as a structural support and armature, the present is represented by the presence or use of a modern-day object (water bottles), and the future is inferred by the way the sculpture looks and feels in sunlight.
In Cole’s shoe works, the artist creates spontaneously, without plans or sketches, like a jazz musician. In these works, the artist attempts to exorcise the spirits of the wearer and allow the form and the objects to lead him while discovering and revealing social commentary on gender stereotypes along the way. Successful work for Cole is both conceptual as well as contextual, and one that asks: “Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?”