February 4, 2008
For at least 10 years I have wanted to get out to Lucama, NC, a short hour-plus away from Raleigh, to visit one of NC’s true art treasures, Vollis Simpson’s Whirligig Windmill Farm. Saturday, Aly and I finally made the trek out there, and it was worth the wait! Driving around the back country of Eastern North Carolina, it was easy to assume we were lost, but then we came around a curve and…WOW…there it was…giant fantasy-like structures all turning and spinning at the whim of the wind. Some of the structures are over 50 feet tall, and all of them are intricate metal machines.
Mr. Simpson’s shop is on the corner of the site. We stopped in and were lucky enough to find him there working. You can only see his smaller pieces,the ones available for sale to the public, if he’s there at the shop to show them to you. There are not standard visiting hours or anything like that, so we felt lucky indeed. A neighbor and friend of Mr. Simpson’s came by while we were there because heneeded a piece of farm machinery welded for strength. So, we also got the pleasure of hearing all sorts of stories concerning the goings-on of the surrounding community.
Mr. Simpson is close to 90 years old, and continues to be incredibly prolific in both his art and his stories. He started working with metal and wind about 50 years ago, after returning from WWII. About 30 years ago, he started adding artistry and fantasy into his already functional wind devices.
Vollis Simpson’s whirligigs are now in museums and galleries around the country, and his Windmill Farm is listed as one of NC’s stops in Roadside America. He has been on 60 Minutes, PBS and lots of art or outsider art publications.