When you have a chance, please take advantage of the beautiful fall weather and stroll through the Museum Park to the recently reinstalled, restored Vollis Simpson Wind Machine. It’s been relocated close to the smokestack and can be seen from the Ellipse and the Park entrance.
Reinstallation in progress: Vollis Simpson, Wind Machine, 2002, steel and other media, H. 30 x W. 30 x D. 15 ft., Commissioned by the North Carolina Museum of Art with funds from the William R. Roberson Jr. and Frances M. Roberson Endowed Fund for North Carolina Art
Vollis Simpson, North Carolina’s most famous visionary artist, created our Wind Machine in 2002. Typical of his work, ours was made from various recycled metal parts including fan blades, bicycle rims, and industrial truck parts, and painted in bright patriotic colors. Unfortunately, they quickly deteriorated in the outdoor environment. Over the years the hardware-store-quality paint faded and peeled, parts fell off, and many of the fans stopped spinning.
In 2010 a program was set up in Wilson to restore the rusting wind machines sited on Simpson’s farm near Lucama, N.C. To date 30 or so large whirligigs have been restored and are displayed in a new park in historic downtown Wilson—the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park.
This is where we sent our whirligig for restoration about six months ago. There conservators completely stripped the paint off, primed the bare metal, and recoated with an industrial-quality paint that will hold up for years to the elements. They also replaced most of the fans and rebuilt the little airplane on top. All of the bearings were replaced so that everything spins in the wind freely as Simpson intended. All of the restoration/refurbishment was done according to standards worked out between Simpson and Park conservators before Simpson passed away in 2013 at age 94.
Watch this timelapse video of the Wind Machine's reinstallation in the Museum Park!
William Brown is chief conservator at the NCMA.
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