Willie Cole makes extensive use of readymade objects and found materials in his work, especially salvaged shoes, irons, and other consumer objects. He recalls growing up in New Jersey and finding discarded things like shoes and irons and hair dryers lying in the street. He’d pick them up and take them home to fix them with the intention of using them. Over the years, many of those same consumer objects have found their way into his studio practice. Shoes, however, hold a special place in Cole’s imagination. In an interview with the New York Times on the occasion of the opening of his museum opening at the Montclair Art Museum, the artist recalled making a deal with the manager of the Salvation Army Store to purchase whatever unsold women’s heels they had. Shoes have “texture and tangible history,” Cole said. “An iron’s not porous; it can't hold perspiration. With a shoe, you know a person was there because of the sweat on it.” Cole also finds something in the form of shoes that is decidedly anthropomorphic. His shoe sculptures frequently reference the human face or the human figure. The dreamlike forms in these works reference African traditional sculpture, while combining Cole's interest in consumer culture, Pop imagery, and Surrealism.