Art on the Avenue: Adria Peterson

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Next door to Rockridge's CCA Galleries, a testing ground for new artists, is the studio of Adria Peterson, one of the neighborhood's established artists. Since 1999, she has shared space at 5253 College Avenue with her husband, architect Kirk E. Peterson, in the building some may remember as a long-gone imports store.

Raised in Delaware and an alumna of the Rhode Island School of Design, Adria Peterson moved to the Bay Area in 1976. Her father, the artist Domenico Mortellito, began his career with the Works Progress Administration in the '30s. His work was shown a few years ago as part of an exhibition celebrating the 75th anniversary of the WPA at Walnut Creek's Bedford Gallery. Because her father kept his studio at home, Peterson grew up making art, and she has passed on this interest by teaching classes for both children and adults.

Peterson has worked as graphic designer and illustrator, and makes art in a variety of media including jewelry, ceramics, and sewing. She is best known, however, for her detailed colored-pencil drawings on slate that incorporate gold leaf backgrounds. The subjects for these works often come directly from nature: a landscape; a bird perched on a tree limb; fruit hanging from a branch; or a still life composition. When American Artist published an article on Peterson's use of gold leaf, colored pencil, and slate in 1996, it was almost 60 years since her father's carved and lacquered linoleum technique had been featured in the same publication.

In 2007, Peterson's art was featured on the cover of Edible East Bay. She appreciates living in the area and the rhythm of things in Rockridge:"It is a vibrant neighborhood with great restaurants, markets, library, bookstores, people out and about, easy transportation around the Bay Area and close access to UC Berkeley and Cal Performances."

Links to web sites for Adria Peterson and her father, Domenico Mortellito:;

Author Carl Schmitz is Art Research Librarian at the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation. A specialist on Albuquerque's modern art scene of the '50s as well as a connoisseur of Cole Coffee's dark roasts, he can be reached at