An Artist’s Life

Posted: April 16, 2013

Artist Polly Nunn works on an acrylic painting of pansies (above) in front of the Artisan’s Gallery in downtown Harrisonburg. (Photo by Nikki Fox/DN-R)
Nunn holds a clay model named “Mic Jagger Bass” in front of her artwork, which will be on display at the Artisan’s Gallery throughout April. (Photo by Nikki Fox/DN-R)
Nunn’s finished pansy painting. (Photo by Nikki Fox/DN-R)

Legend says no matter how far a swallow flies, the bird will always find its way back home. Thirty-four years later, painter, sculptor and teacher Polly Holden Nunn has found her way back home to Harrisonburg. And she’s brought her life’s work to the Artisan Gallery downtown.

The Beauty Is In The Details

Some paintings are of tiny pink-and-orange flowers the size of a work desk. Others are large scenes, such as the Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas, which she turns into miniature works the size of a wallet. There is a fish sculpture called “Mic Jagger Bass,” and a glass coffee table wrapped with copper flowers.

Nunn is an accomplished artist who uses multiple mediums, but she is best known for enlarging flowers so viewers can see the small details.

“I attempt to magnify reality in my paintings and lead the viewer into a different perspective, revealing the flower’s serenity and grandeur in an undiscovered dimension,” she says on her website.

Fellow artist Debra Sheffer said one glance at Nunn’s work will give you an idea of her versatility.

“I’m most impressed by the color and vitality of her uber-large florals,” she said. “They remind me of Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings of similar genres.”

Redbud Festival To Showcase Works

Nunn will display her artwork at the Dayton Redbud Spring Arts & Crafts Festival on April 27. The festival, which will be at the Artisans Courtyard,
will feature local artists, ducky races, music, horse carriage rides and an antique car show. Nunn will
have a station set up for children to paint and make their own sculptures.

“I am looking forward to working with kids and families,” she said. “It’s my favorite thing to do.”

In order to mimic Redbud blooms, Nunn is going to stain popcorn pink so children can glue it onto trees they draw. There will also be plenty of clay for the little ones to play with.

“I think it’s going to be fun,” Nunn said. “Nothing like taking some mud and letting some kids make a leaf plate.”

Nunn has won many awards for her artistry. But for her, the greatest satisfaction comes from sharing the joy of making artwork with someone else.

She recalled working with a 24-year-old who suffered from cerebral palsy.

“To me, it was the cruelest of all the disabilities because you could look in his eyes and he was as sharp as a tack. But his body wouldn’t respond. I went there on a program I just started [in Harrisonburg] called Art on Wheels …

“I would go to his house and he was in his wheelchair and I would put his hand over top of mine and …  I took my other hand and moved the paper around so it looked like a picture.

“And he would sit there and just be totally fascinated, and he would smile.”

Contact Timothy Schumacher at (540) 574-6265 or