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Sidney Peterson

Born in Oakland, California, November 15, 1905. Attended University of California, Berkeley. Newspaper reporter for Monterey Herald in early 1920s. Lived in Paris and Southern France in late '20s, early '30s, painting and sculpting. Married Ruth Bosley and moved back to Berkeley, California; wife died shortly thereafter. Married Bernice Van Gelder and moved to San Francisco. Ran Workshop 20 at San Francisco Art Institute after World War II. Co-founded Orbit Films with Robert Gardner in 1950 to make documentaries. Museum of Modern Art, New York City: Director of Educational Television production, 1954-1955. Moved family to Santa Fe, New Mexico where he began writing a novel. United Productions of America (UPA), Los Angeles, California: Scriptwriter for animated series on lives of historical figures, especially artists, 1955-1956. Walt Disney Productions, Los Angeles: Scriptwriter and storyboard artist for Fantasia II (never completed), 1957-1958. Returned to San Francisco to finish novel, A Fly in the Pigment, published in 1961.

Pioneer Bay Area Filmmaker Passes Away in New York City.

Sidney Peterson an American Surrealist artist, writer and father of independent and experimental filmmaking in San Francisco, passed away Monday April 24 In New York City. Sidney Peterson with his film The Potted Psalm (1946), made in collaboration with poet James Broughton (1913-1999), explored new frontiers in experimental cinema. Peterson made the San Francisco's first personal art films as demonstrated in The Potted Psalm (1947) and The Cage (1947). These Surrealist classics inaugurated the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in Cinema film series, started by Frank Stauffacher in 1946.

Peterson taught the nation's first fine art filmmaking courses at the California School of Fine Arts (today the San Francisco Art Institute), known as Workshop 20. With his students, Peterson made a series of complex short, non-narrative films that drew inspiration from the psychological landscape of post-WWII San Francisco, figurative abstraction and music concrete. Peterson's best known films from this period are Mr. Frenhofer and the Menotaur (1948) and The Lead Shoes (1949).

"The Lead Shoes proposes a comic vision that is not at all funny. Extravagant, exhausting, open to the fortuitous and the unintended, its picaresque narrative transforms the dark region of unconscious impulse into an intellectual burlesque. The "story" disintegrates into a warped tissue of allusions and visual puns riddled by ellipses and audio-visual shifts."-Stuart Leibman

Peterson was attracted to the Surrealist School of Cinema with its marvelous imagery drawn from the subconscious dream state and its unfamiliar time relationships. In accordance with Surrealist painting, Peterson made films that often distored camera imagery so that the viewer's world became shifted in perspective.

"One thing the Museum of Modern Art taught me was that San Francisco has been an important center of production for short artistic films since the latter 1940's" - Sidney Peterson

Sidney Peterson was born in Oakland, California, November 15, 1905. Attended University of California, Berkeley. He was a newspaper reporter for Monterey Herald in early 1920s. He lived in Paris and Southern France in late #20s, early '30s, painting and sculpting. He married Ruth Bosley and moved back to Berkeley, California; wife died shortly thereafter. He married Bernice Van Gelder and moved to San Francisco. Co-founded Orbit Films with Robert Gardner in 1950 to make documentaries. Museum of Modern Art, New York City: Director of Educational Television production, 1954-1955. Moved family to Santa Fe, New Mexico where he began writing a novel. United Productions of America (UPA), Los Angeles, California: Scriptwriter for animated series on lives of historical figures, especially artists, 1955-1956. Walt Disney Productions, Los Angeles: Scriptwriter and storyboard artist for Fantasia II (never completed), 1957-1958. Returned to San Francisco to finish novel, A Fly in the Pigment, published in 1961. Remained in San Francisco, writing and lecturing until he and his wife moved to England in the early '70s.

From England they returned to live in New York City. In 1981 he made a film with Marjorie Keller . Man in the Bubble. His second wife died in 1990. He is survived daughter, Nora, who lives in New York City and he has one grandchild, Kevin.

Rebecca Barton
David Sherman
Dominic Angerame

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