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(American, b. 1955)
Embossed photoetching hand-colored with lemon juice; photoscreenprint hand-colored with lemon juice; photoetching and woodcut
Sheet: 99.8 x 67.5 cm (39 5/16 x 26 9/16 in.)
John L. Severance Fund 2000.75
The steam iron is a personal symbol for this artist and it appears in many of his works.
Cole created a dialogue between blacks’ ancestral home in Africa and their forced resettlement in America using his self-portrait and a favorite item, the steam iron. In Man, the first panel of this triptych, a photograph of Cole’s face is covered with the embossed pattern of the steam holes of a Proctor Silex iron, a reference to the traditional tribal practice of skin scarification and branding for social identification. In Mask the iron resembles a face and is superimposed atop an inverted image of Cole’s visage; in tribal ritual a mask contains the spirit while the persona of the mask hides the wearer. In Spirit and Mask, irons resemble African tribal war shields and mimic the shape of slave ships as seen from above. Irons and ironing boards are also reminders that generations of African American women have labored as domestics.
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