In His Own Words

About Fred W. Peterson

Fred. W. Peterson

My career as an artist began in a south Chicago blue ­collar community where becoming an artist was not considered a sensible choice for one’s life. Artists had neither a labor union to support their work and wages nor evaluate their responsibilities and contributions to folks in the neighborhood who were just working to pay the rent and grocery bills. These were the Depression years when most families barely got by.

Despite these circumstances I continued to cultivate my own aesthetic ambitions. I read biographies of artists, frequently visited the Chicago Art Institute, and began to make drawings and paintings on my own. I inwardly sensed that becoming an artist was the one true goal I could set for my life. I knew even then that fame and fortune in the arts was a fantasy for my future so with a practical set of values I set out to earn a bachelors degree with major in studio art and philosophy and then a doctor’s degree in art history that would enable me to teach and practice art at a college or university. These degrees would act as my union card to enter a profession that would ordinarily have been closed to one without a proper social/economic pedigree.

I joined the faculty of the University of Minnesota, Morris in 1961 when the campus was only one year old. I initiated the studio art and art history curricula, taught courses in both disciplines until additional faculty were hired, and assumed the role of the art gallery director/curator by presenting series of exhibits representing regional and national artists. After the first few years at Morris when the curriculum and faculty were securely established I began to devote more of my time and energy to making art.

Morris is located in the rural west­ central section of Minnesota on the edge of the prairie to the west and in the lake region of the state to the north. The natural scenery provides a variety of motifs for landscape. More that forty years ago I began to create drawings and watercolors directly from particular locations. Eventually I added oil pastels as a medium that allowed me to represent and interpret what I discovered to be essential qualities of the place ­ an expansive space, brilliant clear light, intricate woven textures, and complex colors that enrich the land.

Teaching and research in art history provides me with an informed, but not always unbiased, estimate of the quality of my work. I have not attempted to emulate the style of any artist but learn the tradition of landscape art in the western world so that I am able to see where I am in this tradition and move in the open-­ended creative process of discovering what I can accomplish that adds to and enlarges that tradition.

Me and Peter Paul