A detail from Roland Petersen‘s “Picnic with 6 figures and flag” (2004). The San Francisco Bay Area painter recently turned 83; in World War II he served as a gunner on a destroyer, the USS Rooks, and bombarded Japanese positions on Iwo Jima. At Officer Candidate School, Petersen began to take art classes on the side, a hobby that led to an M.A. in art and eventually to a professorship at University of California, Davis, where he taught for 37 years.
I deal with color relationships, which I try to think of as a sequence of colors that have a kind of rhythm going, as in music. And I try to deal with changing that rhythm upside down, inside out and in any way that I can vary that. The kind of feeling that I am trying to achieve in my work is pretty much a kind of isolation of a person being alone in his own thoughts so to speak. And this kind of approach seemed to be a natural way of working. I have always admired the work of Seurat. And this kind of almost Egyptian-like stiffness or silence, which I like to see in art, is what I try to achieve. So this timeless kind of essence, I guess one might say, is what I’m trying to capture.
– Oral history interview with Roland C. Petersen, Sept. 17, 2002, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution