Seeing, And The Art Of Ed Petersen

Contributed by Ed Petersen

My name is Ed Petersen. I am 24 years old, born and raised in Wasilla. I am currently an art student at UAA and Mat-Su College. I am pursuing my Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree in Painting and Photography. Growing up, I never thought of art as something important or serious. I had always assumed that strong artistic ability was inherent, and was reserved for an elite group of individuals. 

Being born in the early 1990s, I was constantly exposed to mass amounts of media and programming that was created by artists. Every television show, illustrated book, advertisement, piece of clothing and nearly every man-made object in my world was created by other people just like me. As a child and teenager, it never occurred to me that I had just as much potential and could be just as capable as any artist out there. When I was 19, I took my first photography class at Mat-Su College and things started to change. It was in this classroom that I began looking at the world in a very different way.

The core lesson at the heart of my art education is the act of seeing. Seeing is not as passive as we may think, it is a very engaged and active part of the human experience. You and I may look at the same scene, and both of us will take away completely different things from it depending on what we are paying attention to. Before my art classes, I was a very careless person when it came to seeing things. When I looked at something, I saw only what was important to me (as we all do). Having to compose an image in the viewfinder of a camera, or compose a scene for an oil painting forces you to be much more analytical of what you are looking at. This process breaks down visual space and made me have a much more heightened awareness of what I was visually experiencing in the world.

My new way of seeing the world has lead the direction of my artwork ever since. In my paintings, I tend to showcase things that you may see as ordinary, but present them in a way that shows how engrossing they can be. 

For example my recent oil painting “Reenie” is of a family cat sitting below a lamp with colored lightbulbs illuminating her. This painting originated from a moment when a cat at my family’s house came and sat next to me under a lamp. Looking at the scene with an analytical eye, I immediately saw potential for a piece of artwork. 

Another painting I did recently is of a simple coffee pot. I had purchased a coffee pot to share with other art students in the studio. While looking at it, noticed the range of light values and reflections to be very visually enticing, and so it lead to a painting. Suddenly something as boring and simple as a coffee pot becomes beautiful and interesting when looked at with the right perspective. 

Beauty and visually pleasing things are all around us at all times, and it’s our perspective on them that dictates how we feel. What's important to remember is that your visual perspective can be changed and influenced, it is not a static thing. 

My new series of photographs titled “Trashed, Frozen, & Forgotten” expands upon the idea of seeing beauty in an unlikely subject. It is centered around a scene of old vintage cars and vehicles that were disposed of near the Knik River. Despite seeming simple and straightforward, there are a lot of different ideas and stories that you can synthesize. You can imagine the many years ago when these were running cars that belonged to people. Then consider the image of them being disposed of, thrown out with little concern about environment around them. Time passes, they get covered in trees, dirt, and plants. Years go by as nature begins to try and take them back. Some of the cars are covered with graffiti, giving the viewer another layer of time and interaction to ponder. 

With just a quick glance, these may seem like just ugly trashed cars laying in dirt, snow, and ice. But if you have the right eye or imagination, you can actually pull a vast amount of ideas, stories, and feelings from the images. There is a certain visual beauty in the way the cars appear in the winter landscape, even though they may be very ugly and unsightly. Without being very purposeful with my visual perspective, I would have never thought that old trashed cars could make a good fine art photography series.

If you have any questions for me, would like prints of paintings or photos, or would like to commission a painting please feel free to contact me directly.

Ed Petersen