CHARACTERS: Visionary artist Vollis Simpson
“One person’s trash is another person’s treasure” …
Truer words have never been spoken than when discussing the visionary art of Vollis Simpson.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is another quote that comes to mind when viewing the works created by Simpson which are now some of the most recognizable work in the genre of American homemade art by self-taught practitioners, now known as outsider or visionary art.
His wind-animated sculptures made of scrap metal, nuts, bolts, bicycle reflectors, road signs, HVAC fans, mirrors, stovepipes, aluminum sheeting, steel rods and “anything else he could find at the junkyard” make up the supports and moving parts of these whirligigs which stand up to 50 feet tall (and nearly as wide) and punctuate the North Carolina sky. And each sculpture tells a story such as the massive Horse Wagon (60x40x30) which is about eastern rural North Carolina.
Simpson is one of the state’s most recognized artists and his creations have been included in exhibits worldwide, including at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art, the Baltimore Visionary Art Museum and the NC Museum of Art in Raleigh. Four of Simpson’s whirligigs are on permanent outdoor display in Atlanta at the site that hosted the 1996 Olympics. His works have graced the windows of Bergdorf Goodman in Manhattan and are on permanent display in numerous cities worldwide.
Although Simpson is no longer able to build these iconic and unique sculptures due to his age and health (he’s in his 90’s) his work lives on. In November of this year, the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park will open in Wilson and promises to be a “one-of-a-kind art park providing artistic, educational, recreational opportunities at the intersection of art and science.”
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