Whirligigs in Wilson
We’ll trek back east this week to the Coastal Plains.
Recently, Artsee Magazine featured the artwork of Mr. Vollis Simpson. Locals in the Wilson, North Carolina area are familiar with Mr. Simpson’s work, because it is the very subject of some local lore.
The story of Acid Park is rather similar to other tragic tales of teenage recklessness. A popular, told from the cradle up story says that the artist’s daughter was driving one night with a group of friends. LSD, or acid of course, entered the picture and things began to spiral wildly out of control. The evening ended with the car wrapped around the tree, and the passengers dead. A tamer version has the teenagers consuming copious amounts of alcohol.
And neither are true.
But the story stuck around. College students tell out of town friends. I myself visited it a few times in college, and I heard the acid version. In fact, it seems to be a tale shared with everyone and accepted as truth. The main reason?
Now, having seen the car myself, as well as a more close-up picture of it (in Weird Carolinas, a current favorite of mine), the car is wrapped around the tree, in a way. The tree, in fact, grows through the car’s engine. The poor old car has been stripped of nearly everything to make the beautiful, jingling, sparkling art.
Mr. Simpson is said to have built a wind-powered washing machine in the Mariana Islands when he was stationed there in World War II, which to me is brilliant. The Whirligigs are a product of that genius. All of them move in the wind, if you’re lucky enough to get there on a night when the wind is blowing in. The machines have a bit of complexity to them. Other parts of the park are more stationary. One looks like a Ferris wheel, another like a Christmas tree. If I remember correctly, the Christmas tree piece has been moved to downtown Wilson, on Douglas Street, where the new workshop is. It’s nice during the day, but at night, the true grandeur of the place is obvious, as the machines reflect everything through the pitch darkness of a rural landscape.
To my sadness, I’ve recently heard that they’re moving all of the pieces to downtown Wilson, in the midst of a small, wilted city with too many lights and not enough people to see. The park proves to me that sometimes, it takes the heavy darkness to see the beautiful light.
Here’s a link to a post on Southern Fried Thinker, called The Ghostly Carnival. She’s had some pictures up of these for sometime, of the park at night. I think there’s also a link if you’d like to know more.