Willie Cole presented a lecture on his art and inspiration to IUP students

Willie Cole giving a lecture on his artwork at Sutton Museum. (Tyler Washington/ The Penn).

Internationally renowned artist Willie Cole delivered a lecture on his unique artistic ability in the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Univeristy museum in Sutton Hall Thursday.

Cole is best known for his talent in transforming everyday objects into works of art. His biggest project includes the use of irons.

Cole said his inspiration behind this project grew from the idea of domesticity, as irons were often used by domestic housewives and slaves throughout history. He has used the irons as a branding method, creating patterns and figures by scorching surfaces with the face of the iron. This technique is supposed to mimic the branding rituals commonly performed by African tribes.

Cole has also crafted several sculptures out of shoes. One work, named “Sole Sitter,” depicts a 6-foot-tall figure seemingly made out of several giant pairs of high heels. Other sculptures are made out of actual shoes, for which Cole scoured thrift shops. He admitted that to keep all of his materials organized, he color coordinated the hundreds of shoes he has and “divides the shoes like fruit at a fruit stand.”

Cole also demonstrated a sort of resourcefulness by creating sculptures out of plastic bottles. He has crafted chandeliers measuring 12 feet by 12 feet comprised of nearly 3,000 bottles and has fashioned an entire car, as well as a hallway, made up of over 10,000 bottles. His recycled material comes from employees at his local YMCA.

Though Cole’s take on art is abnormal, he used normal, everyday influences to spark his creativity. He said he got his inspiration to transform common objects into art from his son’s toys, namely Transformers. He said he enjoys “taking things apart and re-assimilating them so that you never see them again.”

Cole also found inspiration for his unique sculptures from cartoons like “Catdog” and the Tasmanian Devil.

With such a distinctive artistic style, there is no doubt that Cole is instilling creative inspiration within aspiring artists.

“I love the way he takes something that is considered an everyday object and turns it into something you would never expect it to be,” Tori Dellafiora (sophomore, music education) said. “It really inspires me to look at things in a different way.”

Students showed admiration for Cole’s art and how he finds inspiration in random objects throughout the world.

“I love how he goes to thrift shops and picks up shoes to make art,” Kristin Reda (junior, art education) said. “I think what fascinates me most is that he is able to make something that is familiar into something beautiful.”

Cole’s lecture on his love of expressing himself and how art has affected his life left students with a new appreciation for artistic skill.

“Art is a part of life,” Stephanie Beletti (senior, studio art) said. “It makes life more interesting. People can relate to it in so many different ways.”

“Art tells a story,” Reda said. “It’s thought-provoking, and that is really important.”

For students who aspire to make their own art, Cole had simple advice.

“Go to the studio, put yourself in a creative environment, and something will happen.”

As for Cole’s future plans, he says he will continue to pursue the field of art.

“There is so much more to discover,” he said.