Man Spirit Mask

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Did You Know?

The steam iron is a personal symbol for this artist and it appears in many of his works.


This artwork is composed of three prints, each referencing the artist’s identity as a Black man in America grappling with the legacy of slavery. The central print depicts a ghostly scorch mark made by an iron. This ordinary household tool may reference domestic servitude, but also echoes the shape of ships that carried millions of captive African people to the United States. On the flanking prints, the artist layered the imprint and image of the same iron over his own face, suggesting African masks and scarification rites, and the branding of Black bodies as property. By incorporating the iron imagery onto his own face, Cole suggests that scars from the past can and do affect the present.
Man Spirit Mask

Man Spirit Mask


Willie Cole

(American, b. 1955)
America, 20th century

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