noun whirl·i·gig \ˈhwər-li-ˌgig, ˈwər-\
1: a child’s toy having a whirling motion
2 : merry-go-round
3a : one that continuously whirls, moves, or changes
3b : a whirling or circling course (as of events)
We were blessed to have had an artist here in North Carolina that made whirligigs of the greatest imagination. Colorful. Playful. Magical. Whirling, moving, circling. His work brought out the kid in all of us. Using his experience in the US Navy and as a machine repair shop owner, Vollis Simpson began creating ‘art’ full-time in the mid-1980’s when he retired. He created his whirligigs for “fun” – and to keep himself busy as he once stated “I had to find something that was better than watching television”. Working on his farm in the tiny town of Lucama, NC – just about an hour east of our Raleigh office, he wanted to see how things moved with the wind and to see what he could create with old pieces from farm equipment, automobiles, appliances, boats, and anything he could get his hands on. Several years ago, I drove my family down several dirt roads to get to his farm. He wasn’t working that day – but I remember being in awe of all he created – his whirligigs moving slowly with the wind. There was a pleasant calm to the slow movements and gentle creaking of some of the rusting art pieces. It was mesmerizing.
His work has been included in the permanent collections of the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the American Folk Art Museum in Manhattan, the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, and the North Carolina Art Museum in Raleigh. He has also had multiple displays of his work shown in Downtown Raleigh and at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, as well as in several towns across North Carolina. Unfortunately, Mr. Simpson passed away in 2014 at the age of 94. Yet there is a current plan to build a park with his Whirligigs in it in the nearby town of Wilson, NC. With this park and his work at the regional museums, his outsider art will remain alive for generations to see, moving and creaking along with the wind.
You can read more about Vollis Simpson and his art HERE or HERE.