Virginia Tech was honored to have contemporary artist Willie Cole during Sustainability Week. Cole gave a lecture as well as visited with students throughout the week.

He has created works with blow dryers, irons, and high heels that suggest visions of African tribal masks and anthropomorphic figures. Cole spoke of his son as his inspiration in pursing sculpture, “[H]e played with his toy Transformer as a kid… At first it’s a plane, it’s a gun, it’s a car, it’s a robot and it just blew my mind. I said to myself in that moment ‘that’s what I want to do. I want to make people see things where they’ve never seen before; transformations’… [From there I] came into doing sculptural things.” Cole’s work indeed has the ability to transform commonplace objects into an entirely new perception. His recent fascination in recycling water bottles has brought about the creation of intriguing installations and the integration of students in his process. “I enjoy it because it has community involvement [and] it’s educational. Mostly I enjoy the community aspect of it” says Cole.

Volunteers, including students from the School of Architecture + Design, worked hours preparing the 50,000 plastic water bottles. Tasks included dumpster diving, cleaning bottles, and finally stringing them all together. Willie and the students were able to construct the installation just in time for the opening of his gallery exhibition. Thank you to all the volunteers for both their time and enthusiasm in making this a success!

video of installation construction

Willie Cole's Website

Willie Cole: UpCycle, an exhibition of his work, will be in the Armory Art Gallery September 17th through October 18th.