Polley was a painter, printmaker, illustrator, writer and teacher. He was born in Union City, Indiana.
He studied at the Herron School of Art and Design in Indianapolis, his teachers including William Forsyth, and the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design in Washington, D.C. Polley worked as a commercial artist, contributing special features to the Indianapolis Star, some of which appeared in national magazines such as the Ladies’ Home Journal and Esquire. He also produced two books, Our America and Historic Churches in America.
His most active years were in the 1920s through the 1940s. He exhibited at the Society of Etchers of Brooklyn and of Philadelphia; the Library of Congress; the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh; and the Delgado Museum of Art, now the New Orleans Museum of Art. He received awards from the Hoosier Salon, the Herron school, the Indiana Artists Club and the New Orleans Art League. He was active in the artist colony in Brown County, Indiana. His work is the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Indiana University, Iowa State University and the University of Pittsburgh, among others.