Unsuspecting drivers spotting them for the first time are certain to experience a “what in the …?” doubletake. Around a rural roadside pond eight miles from the eastern North Carolina town of Wilson, a wonderland of three-story-high farmers, automobiles, airplanes and whimsical animals move in the wind and reflect light, many clinking harmoniously as they turn. The raw material for Vollis Simpson’s fanciful, highly engineered whirligigs is often discarded farm equipment.
Early inklings of Simpson’s artistry were evident in the 1940s, when he built a windmill to power a washing machine in Saipan during World War II. After the war, he returned to Wilson to farm and run a house-moving and farm equipment repair business, and his sculptural inclinations went largely untapped. Parts accumulated for decades, until in his 60s, with “too much junk lying around to ignore,” his latent genius for whirligigs blossomed.
Today, dozens of moveable metal sculptures tower from Simpson’s field in the tiny town of Lucama. Bicyclists pedal, mules pull a cart and wheels spin in the breeze. A daytime visit will reveal the effects of weather on the constructions, which Simpson first began erecting in 1985. Many oglers opt for a drive-by nighttime visit; the whirligigs, visible from the road, are covered in ref lectors that come alive when caught by a car’s high beams. The resulting show of light and motion has prompted locals to nickname the site “Acid Park”—it’s a truly psychedelic experience.
For more of “What Goes Around…”, pick up a June 2006 issue of AmericanStyle today!