Gary Petersen was born in Staten Island, New York. He received a B.S. from The Pennsylvania State University and an M.F.A. in painting from The School of Visual Arts.

He is the recipient of a Residency Fellowship at the Bogliasco Foundation, Italy (2022), The Barnett and Annalee Newman Foundation Grant-Award (2020),  MacDowell Fellowship (2017) , The American Academy of Arts and Letters, Hassam, Speicher, Betts, and Symons Art Purchase Fund Award (2014), The Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program (2010-2011) Brooklyn, New York, The New Jersey State Council on the Arts, Painting Fellowship Award for 2011, 2002,1993 and the Edward F. Albee Foundation Visual Arts Fellowship Award (1988). 

Recent solo exhibitions have included McKenzie Fine Art (2022, 2019, 2016), New York, Theodore:Art in Brooklyn, The Visual Arts Center of New Jersey, and Tiger Strikes Asteroid in Philadelphia.  Recent group exhibitions have included Pamela Salisbiury Gallery (Hudson, NY), Hollis Taggart Gallery (NY), Mindy Solomon Gallery (Miami), KunstPakhuset (Ikast, Denmark), Carroll and Sons (Boston, MA), Vassar College (Poughkeepsie, NY), Mount Airy Contemorary (Philadelphia, PA), Curator's Office (D.C.),  The University of Massachusetts at Amherst (MA), Morgan Lehman Gallery (NY), The University of Hawaii, Manoa (Hawaii), Geoffrey Young Gallery (MA) and the 2014 American Academy of Arts and Letters Invitational Exhibition (NY).

His work has been reviewed and covered by HyperAllergic (John Yau, 2022, 2019 & 2016), ArtNews (2015), Art in America (2012 and 2005), Two Coats of Paint, ArtCritical (David Cohen), The Philadelphia Inquirer, Knight Arts Foundation, The New Criterion, The Wall Street Journal, HaberArts, NY Arts Magazine, Whitehot Magazine, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and The Partisan Review.

His work is in several private and public collections including the Dallas Museum of Art, The Jewish Museum (New York), Zimmerli Art Museum Rutgers University and The United States Department of State. He currently has a studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn and resides in Hoboken, New Jersey.