Jim McCormick, Collaboration, 1979,
Lithograph, 11x16 in. This print depicts
Will Petersen at the Lakeside Studio in
|Will Petersen, a painter,
master printer and a poet, was born in Chicago. His father was a tool-and-die
maker and a Sunday painter who exhibited on the sidewalks of Wacker Drive.
Young Will's formal art education began at age 13 with classes at the Chicago
Academy of Fine Arts. As a student at the city's Steinmetz High School,
Petersen was a cartoonist for the school newspaper, the Steinmetz Star.
During this time, Petersen recovered from polio.
In 1947 Petersen enrolled at Chicago's Wilbur Wright College. While there, he painted with oils for the first time. Two years later he enrolled at Michigan State University where he developed a strong interest in literature and writing and began printmaking. By 1951 he had begun to exhibit paintings and prints nationally. A year later he completed his master's degree.
Petersen served in the United States Army from 1952-54, spending one year as an education specialist in Japan. This encounter with the Japanese culture affected his entire life. He became interested in calligraphy and Noh, classical Japanese performance that combines elements of drama, music and poetry. Returning to the United States, he joined the Beat Generation and seriously explored Zen Buddhism.
Petersen returned to Japan in 1957, pursuing painting, printmaking and writing for eight years while living in Kyoto. In 1965 he accepted a faculty appointment at Ohio State University, teaching drawing, painting and printmaking. Four years later Petersen took his teaching skills to West Virginia University in Morgantown, where he concentrated on printmaking. He taught there until 1977 when he began publishing Plucked Chicken, a journal of art and poetry. In 1978 in Morgantown, Petersen and his wife, Cynthia Archer, established Plucked Chicken Press, which they later moved to Chicago and then Evanston. Petersen operated the Press until his death on April 1, 1994.
Petersen's prints and paintings are included in more than 140 museums and private collections around the world, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Paris; The Art Institute of Chicago; Illinois State Museum, Springfield; and the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University, Evanston.