Finding Soul in High Heel Shoes

by articulatenyc

A massive bronze sculpture by Willie Cole depicts an abstracted seated figure, meditatively resting its head in its hands. At first glance, the piece, titled The Sole Sitter, appears to be made up of a series of geomorphic shapes. After a closer look, it becomes evident that the shapes are actually larger-than-life shoes. A pair of clogs forms the knees and thighs. Mary Janes represent the feet. A cluster of high heels serves as the head.

Since the 1980s, the New Jersey–born, African American artist has been assembling like objects to form works that communicate potent messages about African history and the slave trade, among other themes. Cole’s ironing board woodcuts, shoe and hair-dryer masks, and bicycle-inspired headdresses reclaim African artistic traditions in ways that are both visceral and unexpected.

The Sole Sitter, one of Cole’s most recent works, is based on principles of the West African religion Yoruba, in which specific deities are believed to lead worshipers to the gods. The Sitter is waiting and hoping for a deity to come. Cole constructed this work along with eight other paintings and sculptures for his upcoming solo exhibition “If wishes were horses….” Read the full story on