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 MacDowell Colony 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, New York, Theodore:Art in Brooklyn, The Visual Arts Center of New Jersey, and Tiger Strikes Asteroid in Philadelphia.  Recent group exhibitions have included 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, 2016), ArtNews (2015), Art in America (2012 and 2005), 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 United States Department of State, Fidelity Investments, Roanoke College and The University of Texas Hospital, Dallas, Texas. He currently has a studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn and resides in Hoboken, New Jersey.