|The First Art Newspaper on the Net
||Established in 1996
|| Thursday, September 29, 2016
|Engineers, mechanics renovate North Carolina whirligigs by self-taught North artist Vollis Simpson|
Workers repaint a section of a Vollis Simpson whirligig at a warehouse where renovations are taking place in Wilson, N.C., Thursday, June 21, 2012. The whirligigs have captured attention across the country. Buyers include a shopping center in Albuquerque, the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore and the American Folk Art Museum in New York City. AP Photo/Gerry Broome.
By: Martha Waggoner, Associated Press
WILSON, NC (AP).- The eccentric vision of a self-taught North Carolina artist famed for his whimsical, wind-powered whirligigs is getting an overhaul that's as much about engineering as it is about art.
Just as more traditional conservators might study an artist's canvas and paints, the 16-member team working in a former downtown auto parts warehouse pores over pieces of reflector and debates whether to use more modern bearings to replace old-fashioned grease fittings on Vollis Simpson's spinning sculptures.
They're restoring about 30 whirligigs wind-driven creations constructed from motor fans, cotton spindles and other recycled parts that stand as high as 50 feet. Simpson built the contraptions over the years on land near his machine shop in Lucama, about 35 miles east of Raleigh in North Carolina's coastal flatlands. But at 93, his knees no longer allow him to climb and maintain his creations.
With the help of approximately $2 million in grants and donations, a few organizations in nearby Wilson are building the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park. It's scheduled to open in November 2013. Between now and then, the team is sprucing up whirligigs that have spent decades in the elements, including more than a few hurricanes.
"He made them to last his lifetime, and they basically have," said Danny Price, a retired Bridgestone tire plant worker who's now the whirligig mechanical foreman. "So our next step is to make them last generations."
The whirligigs have captured attention across the country. Buyers include a shopping center in Albuquerque, the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore and the American Folk Art Museum in New York City. A North Carolina dentist placed one outside a window to entertain children.
Four of them were taken to Atlanta for the 1996 Olympics and they're still there.
The whirligigs some weighing as much as 3 tons with hundreds of moving parts are folk art or outsider art, works created by someone without a formal background in art. Simpson also has no formal engineering degree either, but he's built tow trucks to move houses. He once built a motorcycle from a stolen motor and a bicycle when he was an Air Force staff sergeant on Saipan during World War II.
Price leads the mechanical and engineering side of the conservation, which takes up 25,000 square feet of warehouse space and an outdoor area where the whirligigs are parked.
The workers look to maintain Simpson's original work while also making it possible to repair the machines in the 2-acre city park.
Folklorist Jefferson Currie, who leads the painting side of the repair, says Simpson is mainly interested in making sure the whirligigs work. Like Price, however, Currie wants to stay as true to the artist's vision as possible, while renovating the whirligigs so that a city can maintain them.
"I talk to Vollis," Currie said. "We get his OK. Usually, he tells me to do what we want to do."
Stainless steel screws replace roofing tacks and new pieces of reflector replace old. When the damage is extreme, rotting wood is replaced. In such cases, Currie notes the renovation on the piece.
"To me, it's the most important to keep the intent of what Vollis was doing, to make sure the integrity of Vollis' imagination and artistry, mechanical and engineering and patience continue on, and it's not our hand on it, it's his, even though we've had a lot of work to get it back to what he intended," Currie says.
About 20 miles away from the warehouse where Currie and Price mull over Simpson's work, Simpson himself sits in a rickety chair, surrounded by scrap metal and smaller whirligigs, suitable for family yards and tabletops.
Several of his larger whirligigs still stand there; a few will remain after the park is built, including one that will stay as a gift to the community. Simpson is conflicted about the park he knows he couldn't care for the whirligigs but he's lonesome without them.
"Well, I kind of hate to see them go," he said. "I've looked at them for 50 or 60 years."
He says he's excited about the park, but is concerned about the opening date that's more than a year away. "I just hope I live to see it."
Simpson says he doesn't consider himself an artist.
"But everybody says I am," he said. "I'm just an old country boy."
To the people restoring the whirligigs, Simpson is both artist and engineer.
"Now he may not have been an educated engineer, but these are engineering feats, I can tell you that," Price said.
When Currie looks at the whirligigs, he mainly sees patience.
"The one that looks like a Christmas tree, there's 2,000 reflectors on there," Currie said. "And he had to cut each one of those reflectors out by hand, snip them, drill two holes in them, bend them over and tied them all with copper wire 2,000 times."
Simpson doesn't disagree with Currie's assessment necessarily.
"It sure won't easy," he said. "People thought I was crazy. And I am to a certain extent."
Associated Press writer Allen Breed contributed to this story.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
July 5, 2012
Willem van de Velde the Younger's historic Dutch naval battle scene sells for $8.3 million
Beirut Art Fair 2012 opens at the Beirut International Exhibition & Leisure Center
Twelve photographers from four continents on Prix Pictet "Power" shortlist
Major conservation work confirms Dulwich painting as a significant work from the Studio of Titian
Three centuries of portraits of boys from the Rijksmuseum on view at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
Twenty artists delve into the relationship between humans and animals
The Museum of the History of Polish Jews wins major new donations, expected to open in the fall of 2013
Dia Azzawi's manifesto of dismay and anger "Sabra Shatila (1982-83)" acquired by Tate Modern
Freddie Mercury black and white harlequin stage costume rocks pre-sale estimate at Bonhams
Mississippi hometown marks half century post-William Faulkner with several events
Yorkshire Sculpture Park shortlisted for two of the biggest tourism awards in the UK
Selection of photographs, from the 2 million Ahae took from his window, on view at the Jardin des Tuileries
Engineers, mechanics renovate North Carolina whirligigs by self-taught North artist Vollis Simpson
Valencian Institute of Modern Art opens the exhibition "Mar Solis. Line, curve, ellipse"
New Deputy President and Secretary for Royal Scottish Academy
Shipwright builds on past to save maritime future
Art Gallery of Ontario appoints Kitty Scott its new Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art
New website for Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens highlights unique qualities
Most Popular Last Seven Days
1.- Stone Age mummy Oetzi still revealing secrets, 25 years on
2.- Tunisian remains found by British researchers prove 100,000-year human presence
3.- Rembrandt's four earliest paintings reunited for the first time at the Ashmolean
4.- Baltimore Museum of Art is one of only two major U.S. museums to feature an installation by transgender artists
5.- Archaeologists find 2,000-year-old human skeleton at Mediterranean shipwreck
6.- Digitally unwrapped scroll reveals earliest Old Testament scripture
7.- Rich London residents angry over Tate Modern voyeurs
8.- V&A Museum chief quits to fight nationalism post-Brexit
9.- Exhibition in Turin celebrates the most important family of Flemish artists
10.- Pointillism is now the focus of a high-calibre exhibition at the Albertina in Vienna
Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .
|Royalville Communications, Inc|
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.