Polly G Kemp

Pigments Of The Imagination

Polly G Kemp

May 20, 1928 - February 7, 1989

Polly was born and raised in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Her parents were Howard and Stella Green. She had a brother, William and a sister, Nancy. Polly graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in Art History. In 1950 she married Edward W. Kemp. They lived and raised a family in Tipton, Iowa. In 1982 they moved to Heber Springs, Arkansas.

In the early years of her marriage, writing was Polly’s creative outlet. It was easier to use paper and pen than oil paints in a house filled with children. Polly had stories published in children’s magazines, such as Humpty Dumpty, Jack and Jill, Calling All Girls and Catholic Miss. One story, Quiet Quincy and the Delivery Truck, was published in book form.

Polly did not start painting in earnest until 1973. She had seen a naive painting in an art gallery and wanted to buy it. She delayed her purchase to consult with her husband. When she went back to purchase the painting, the gallery owner told her it was no longer for sale, he had decided to buy it for his own personal collection. Frustrated, she decided she would paint her own naive painting. One year later she won a blue ribbon at the Iowa State Fair, and thus she began her art career.

When asked about her style, Polly once responded, "...I paint in the primitive tradition because it's the only method I know, and because it reflects the basic simplicity of my approach to life. If pressed for a definition of my style, I would probably say my paintings are naive in intellectual concept, primitive in academic skills. The term 'folk art' says it best. The folk artist is a free and daring spirit, unhampered by the limitations of reality. The fact that I may actually know very little about a subject does not stop me from painting it. That is what imagination is for...historical and religious themes, genre scenes of today and yesterday, as I remember them or imagine they might have been, or should be. What I lack in technical precision, I make up in integrity of intent..."

National recognition came to Polly in 1976, when The National Observer published her essay in their Off Hours column, where readers related what they did in their leisure to add zest to their lives. She wrote an essay about one of her paintings, which was titled The Queen's Tea Party.

At that point, she already had paintings at galleries in Washington, D.C. and New York City. After her essay was published, she heard from people across the country. Her renown spread and soon her paintings were hanging in galleries and private collections in cities from coast to coast.