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Meg Petersen romanticizes the unnoticed in Coffman exhibit

17-year-old artist Meg Petersen held a reception for “Life is Peachy,” her first solo exhibition, at the Coffman Art Gallery last week.
Image by Alice Bennett
Artist Meg Petersen’s exhibit in Coffman Art Gallery on Wednesday, April 6. Petersen’s exhibit runs from March 30 through May 8.

Meg Petersen strives to make the mundane beautiful. Long car rides, dishwashing and sunbathing aren’t just in-betweens in her work; they’re subjects worthy of close attention. Along the white walls of the Coffman Art Gallery, Petersen’s works depict scenes from everyday life with excruciating detail, often with a gentle, loving hand.

“Life is Peachy” is Petersen’s first solo exhibition. “It’s a little bit scary just because, like, that’s my work and my name up on the wall,” Petersen said before the reception. “Everyone’s gonna know!” The exhibit is open now and will remain at Coffman Union until May 8.

“It’s a more realistic style with a more expressive color story,” Petersen said. “I do a lot of portraits. I really love capturing people in moments where they think maybe people aren’t looking at them or paying attention, because I think those areas are the most interesting.”

The exhibit, aptly titled “Life is Peachy” depicts exactly that: a love letter to the everyday moments that we’re often too busy to pay attention to. “The Knife,” a drawing depicting the complexities within a sink full of dishes, features swirling bubbles and the hand of her mother carefully scrubbing a kitchen knife.

“There’s a lot of unnoticed joy, and not just joy but also sadness and really intense emotion in those overlooked spaces,” Petersen said. “Things that seem insignificant are sometimes the most telling.”

Petersen, a high school junior based just outside of White Bear Lake, has been scribbling away since she could hold a crayon (her words), but began selling her work at 14.

According to Petersen and her mother, Marlene, she’d still be in choir if not for the push of her middle school art teacher, Molly Vadnais, who was present at the reception. Now, Petersen uses charcoal, colored pencils, acrylic and gouache paints to create.

“I’d say it’s surreal, but she’s a very talented artist and more importantly, she’s a really hard worker and she’s not afraid of the word ‘no,’” Marlene said. “It’s really neat to watch the progress of her work because I’ve seen all of these pieces on my living room floor, my dining room table.”

Marlene is the subject of one of her most recent works, “Sun hat,” which depicts her with a crystalline punch bowl on her head as sunlight casts liquid shadows on her face.

As friends and family gathered to admire Petersen’s hard work, she and her parents beamed with joy. “How did this all happen?” one distant relative asked. “Meg is a big deal,” Brent Petersen, her father, said. “She’s fearless. She sees open calls for art and just applies!”

As Petersen continues to balance working as an artist and finishing up high school, she’s setting her sights on an uncertain but hopeful future.

“I want to be able to paint but also apply my artistic skills in a more broad sense,” Petersen continued. “As far as college and stuff like that, I know that I definitely want to do something creative and relating to art because I can’t not have art in my life. I think I would go crazy.”

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