Willie Cole is an American visual artist, known particularly for his use of domestic objects to create inspiring works. Many of his better known works involve the use of an iron or ironing boards. Struck by the connection to black domestic workers and the similarities between the iron and the format of a slave ship, Cole let the art guide him to create tributes to the culture of the enslaved black people stolen from their homes and the women who labored in domestic work.
In the video, “Willie Cole’s Beauties and Bottles”, Cole discusses how the work ‘spoke’ to him, and told him that they were a representation of the women who labored and suffered in domestic work, much like Delia did in Hurston’s “Sweat”. The story describes how skinny she had become and how knotty her knuckles looked due to her slaving over her washing work. Cole Rogers, who assisted Willie Cole in the creation of the ironing board prints, talks about how they flattened the boards so they could be processed and printed properly, like Delia, who had been beaten down by Sykes for years before she lifted a hand to protect herself. Even as the story progresses, Sykes continues to torture her with the snake and by flaunting his affair in her face while she’s in town working hard to keep food on the table for them both. Cole’s ironing boards and Delia are mirror images of each other.