Vollis Simpson, Whirligig Park

Status

Extant

Address

101 N Main St , Lucama, North Carolina, 27851, us

Built

begun 1985

Visiting Information

There are no official visiting hours and the property is private. However, Simpson’s towering windmills can be seen - and heard - from the road.  Windmill Farm is located three miles from Lucama. Take US 301 South, cross the Contentnea Creek Bridge, and turn right on Wiggins Mill Road.

 

In 2012, twenty-nine of the large whirligigs in Simpson’s pasture will be moved about ten miles up the road to a two acre downtown sculpture park in Wilson, NC. Following their restoration and repainting, they will become the centerpiece for an arts and cultural district, workforce training for mechanics and conservators, and educational programs exploring the intersections of art, science, and sustainability. Simpson has been involved in this project, which is part of North Carolina’s larger plans for fostering arts-driven economic development.

 



About the Artist/Site

Stationed in the South Pacific during World War II, Vollis Simpson used parts from a junked B-29 bomber to make a windmill-powered clothes washer. After the war, he made a windmill to heat his home. When he retired in 1985 from careers as a mechanic and mover of large buildings, Simpson wanted “to find something …better than watching television.” He started making whirligigs for aesthetic pleasure, rather than practical function, and, 92 years old as of this writing (fall 2011), he has never stopped. 

Simpson’s whimsical assemblages are fashioned from inexpensive and recycled metal, including scaffolding, bicycle wheels, propellers, street signs and plumbing supplies. Characterized by simplicity and wit, they feature animals, bicyclists, musicians, carousels, lumberjacks, airplanes, rocket ships and angels, as well as abstract designs. Small works are sized to sit comfortably on a table while the nearly thirty towering, large-scale constructions in the pasture across from his workshop rise to heights of nearly fifty feet. Simpson paints all of his creations with bright, bold colors. Larger works combine multiple motifs, with propellers, pinwheels, flanges and cups that clatter and spin in the wind. Together with the surrounding trees, they also sport reflectors, creating bursts of illumination in the headlights of passing cars after dark.

In 1996, four of Simpson’s creations were commissioned and installed at the Atlanta Summer Olympics. His work is displayed in the North Carolina Museum in Raleigh and the High Museum in Atlanta. In Baltimore, one of his large-scale whirligigs stands at the entrance to the American Visionary Art Museum. Fifty-five foot tall, the three-ton structure rests on a sign pole salvaged from a gas station and sports angels, cats, airplanes and carousels made from oil filters, milkshake canisters and waffle-iron parts. Simpson’s work has been featured in books and magazines and once graced the windows of Bergdorf Goodman in Manhattan.  The road outside his shop has been re-named “Windmill Road” in his honor.

In 2012, twenty-nine of the large whirligigs in Simpson’s pasture will be moved about ten miles up the road to a two acre downtown sculpture park in Wilson, NC. Following their restoration and repainting, they will become the centerpiece for an arts and cultural district, workforce training for mechanics and conservators, and educational programs exploring the intersections of art, science, and sustainability. Simpson has been involved in this project, which is part of North Carolina’s larger plans for fostering arts-driven economic development.

~Mark Karpel

Update: From 2012 to 2014, thirty-one of the large whirligigs in Vollis Simpson's pasture were moved about ten miles up the road to a two acre downtown sculpture park in Wilson, NC. Following their restoration and repainting, they will become the centerpiece for an arts and cultural district, workforce training for mechanics and conservators, and educational programs exploring the intersections of art, science, and sustainability. Phase 1 of the park will be completed in 2014. Phases 2 and 3 will be completed as funds become available in 2015/2016. Simpson was very involved in this project until his death in 2013. The Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park and Industrial Artisan District are part of North Carolina's larger plans for fostering arts-driven economic development. www.wilsonwhirligigpark.org.



Materials

recycled materials

SPACES Archives Holdings

1 envelope: images

Map & Site Information

101 N Main St
Lucama, North Carolina, 27851 us
Latitude/Longitude: 35.6455359 / -78.0101513

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