Born in 1955 in Somerfield, New Jersey, Willie Cole received his Bachelor’s degree from the School of the Visual Arts in New York. Cole is a sculptor and printmaker whose work contains multiple meanings and associations.
During the 1980s, Cole was employing irons in his work, scorching paper and ironing boards, among other items, to create patterns that recall African shields and masks and suggest the tradition of ritual scarification. For Cole, the iron is a symbol of both personal and historical significance as he used to help repair irons for his grandmother and great-grandmother, who worked as housekeepers.
Cole has explored the use of the iron in his woodcuts as well as in sculptures of irons that resemble boats, another object of significant meaning within African American culture. Most recently, Cole has lived and worked in New Jersey.