The force behind the whirligig wind-driven art creations, Vollis Simpson has died at age 94 at his home in Lucama, near Raleigh, N.C.
Simpson died in his sleep, according to his wife Jean Simpson. She told the Wilson Daily Times he has heart valve replacement surgery in February, but was worn down by other complications.
The North Carolina Legislature honored the venerable folk artist last month with the North Carolina Award. He donned a tuxedo for the ceremony that is considered the state’s highest honor. His whirligigs also were named official state folk art.
A house mover, farmer and mechanic without art training, following military service in World War II, Simpson began making his signature windmills from leftover junk lying around his farm. The pieces became ever more intricate with reflectors and additions, some growing to more than 60 feet tall and weighing as much as 3 tons.
Commissions were made for venues such as the Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and the North Carolina Museum of Art.
“People in Wilson County will never get over Vollis Simpson,” said Barry Page, executive director of the Wilson Arts Council. “He was one of a kind.”
Vollis Simpson dies: Whirligig art creator Vollis Simpson dies at 94
Whirligig art creator Vollis Simpson dies at 94