Article and photographs by Fred Scruton
Vollis Simpson’s delicate balance of wind, gravity, monumentally, and whimsy was hidden away deep in the North Carolina countryside, but an emerald city seduction would begin as soon you approached that last turn in Wiggins Mill Road– and a sliver of sparkling ankle started to show through. The full birds-flying, axles-squeaking, loggers-sawing, fans-whirring, guitarists-strumming, dials-turning ‘what just happened here’ effect gave his “Whirligig Farm” its “Acid Park” nickname. Mr. Simpson could typically be found across the road welding and grinding away in front of his former repair shop. Looking like central casting for what an artist doesn’t look like, his old-fashioned country gentleman’s under-emotive demeanor made him seem an unlikely maker of such exuberant “windmills,” as he called them. Late in the day when dusk started to set in, passing headlights would set off bursts of reflector fireworks throughout his cacophonous carnival.
We spent Christmas with the in-laws in Greenville, and the day before and after I was able to visit Mr. Thompson, and then again when we returned to Greenville in May for a family event. He and Mrs. Thompson live in the Gassaway Mansion, and the family makes the first floor and grounds available for an events business. A fairytale castle location for a wedding reception– complete with an apocalyptic painter’s studio way up in the turret! (the upper floors are actually, of course, closed to the public) Although Mr. Thompson’s work spans a wide range of subjects and can be quite pleasingly pastoral, he is best best known for religious-themed canvas’ that bring a biblical urgency to contemporary times. He produced a 300 ft Revelation painting that has been exhibited three times in distant locations, and has a 1800 square foot Seven Days of Creation painting on permanent display at the American Visionary Art Museum. A nerve condition makes Mr. Thompson’s painter’s hands unsteady, but the urgency of his gestural marks underlines the biblically proportioned messages.
All non-photographic images in this post © William Thomas Thompson
(left: The Gassaway Mansion)
Up in the turret studio on large work table was a painting in progress about the 911 attack on Washington,* and mounted on the wall behind, a multi-panel work on the Holocaust. Read more…
Winter 2011/12 seemed like an historical rarity for western New York state: very little snow, and so the plan to photograph Prophet Isaiah’s home site under a heavenly dusting had been on hold for over a year. The first snow this winter came while Cheryl & I were on a Christmas visit with relatives in South Carolina, and Prophet Isaiah had his granddaughter text me pictures that came in while we were driving home: Read more…
The much-dissipated regional effect of Hurricane Sandy was day after day of wind and rain– making it the ‘Halloween from Hell’ for local display artists.
Spending most of the seasonal witching hours behind rain-splattered windows, I wasn’t able to venture out of northwestern Pennsylvania/northeastern Ohio, but was able to make return visits to several of the annual ‘toxic waste dump Brigadoons.’
David Lohr and display; Albion, PA 2012
The actual (salvaged) crashed plane lands in different parts of the yard every year….
|Lohr Family, 2010||Carla Wiginton Lohr, 2010|
When he wasn’t taking a smoke break on the back porch, Jim was helping his alter-ego Chimera finish up her magnum opus comic book: Chim’s Pookarama. Among its various page-turning adventures is a tour through the history of comics through numerous drawing quotes of famous comic book illustrators.
Here in 1950, Joseph Battaglia, a barber in the downtown Hydraulics neighborhood of Buffalo, reported witnessing a glowing vision of the Blessed Mother next to his barbershop. He had a marble statue of Mary made, arranged a coronation function in 1951, and personally built a brick shrine to preserve the message of world peace she had instructed him to spread. His next-door home, and the barbershop were demolished in the late 1960’s, and before his elderly departure from the neighborhood, he asked an across-the-street neighbor to look after the shrine. In the 1980’s, the city of Buffalo intended to demolish the shrine, but advocates succeeded in having it spared while Battaglia’s former property around it became a snow-emergency parking lot. Read more…
For over 50 years Ron Manolio cheerfully hand-painted the (real) eggshells for Betty Manolio’s Eggshelland graph paper designs. I’ve truly never met a person who exuded such giddy delight over bringing pleasure to other people.
The immense regional following that Eggshelland has earned no doubt brought Ron great, and well-deserved satisfaction. During the couple of weeks the annual display lasts, there is a constant stream of visitors, and Easter Sunday brings hundreds and hundreds of often generational admirers. Ron and Betty made me feel like just another member of their big Italian-American family from the (unannounced) first moment I showed up with my big camera at their suburban Cleveland front yard in 2005. According to the articles below, Betty intends there to be one final goodbye display for Easter 2013. Read more…