BERRYVILLE — Nancy Polo hopes her art helps people understand what's really happening in the world, regardless of what they know or perceive about current events.

Her new exhibit, "What's Going On?," officially debuts on Sunday at the Barns of Rose Hill. During a reception from 5-7 p.m., visitors will get to meet her and ask questions about what inspired her individual acrylic and watercolor paintings.

In the early 1970s, Marvin Gaye released a song of the same title, inspired by police brutality and other violence occurring in society at the time.

Polo's exhibit is intended to be like a visual continuation of the song. The paintings are based on her emotions and thoughts about recent controversial events, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to information about the exhibit on the Barns' website, "2020 was an historic year — a capstone to an unprecedented time of social, political and environmental upheaval. Everyone everywhere has asked themselves, 'What’s going on?'"

Yet "some beautiful things" have resulted from the turmoil, said Polo, who manages a farm business in Clarke County.

For instance, while selling homegrown products at a farmers' market during the pandemic, she was "thanked profusely (by customers) for continuing to come" to the market, she recalled, all the while some businesses were closed or limited their operating hours.

And, having spent a lot of time in Washington, D.C., being at home a lot as the pandemic progressed spurred her to slow down and enjoy the "peaceful, beautiful moments on the farm," she said.

The exhibit includes 32 landscape, portrait and bird and nature paintings that reveal hints of tension among their overall beauty.

"In our small county, we are lucky enough to be removed from most of the 21st-century turmoil," Polo stated on the Barns' website. But "that buffer does not give us permission to hide. Rather, it should give us pause to contemplate what we truly value and find ways to preserve what we love in our world."

Polo originally was a ceramic artist, but back problems forced her to give up that form of creative expression. She has been painting regularly for about 10 years.

Paintings are a unique type of art, she said, because they're "not just a copy of reality, but a reflection" of it" and the emotions stirred within a person.

Amid that emotion, "there's a level of removal from reality," she continued, one that creates "a safe place ... a refuge" from it.

Tickets to the free reception can be reserved online or by calling the Barns at 540-955-2004. However, walk-ins are welcome, Polo said.

A concert by Los Angeles-based street singer and guitarist Sunny War will follow. Tickets for the concert are $20.

Barns of Rose Hill is located next to the Berryville-Clarke County Government Center on Chalmers Court in downtown Berryville. Parking is available in the government center's lot.

A nonprofit arts, education and musical performance center, the Barns is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Polo described the organization as being a gem within the community.

"We're so lucky to have that arts center in our small town," she said, adding that she hopes people continue to support it.

— Contact Mickey Powell at

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