Photographs by Ann Oppenhimer.
Whirligigs, some towering more than 40 feet high — articulated mules pulling wagons, men riding bicycles, airplanes and rocket ships launching with the breeze — fill the field next to Vollis Simpson’s repair shop in Lucama, N. C. Complex constructions of found materials spin in different directions propelled by the wind. Made of everything from fan blades, milk-shake canisters to bicycle reflectors and machine parts, these elements are perfectly balanced and brightly painted.
Simpson, 91, is one of North Carolina’s most famous self-taught artists. His work is on permanent display in Baltimore, Atlanta, Raleigh and Albuquerque and is represented in private folk art collections throughout the United States. Folk art collectors have long wondered what would become of the whirligig environment on Simpson’s property.