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Serigraphy, Celebrities, and Joe Petro III

(March 2004) posted on Thu Mar 11, 2004

We revisit Kentucky printmaker Joe Petro III, a talented artist whose screen-printing skills have attracted attention from a wide variety of personalities.


By Ed Newman

click an image below to view slideshow

Steadman recounts that first meeting: "Joe said, 'Would you like to do a print with me?' and I said, 'Well, what should we do?' He said, 'I'd like to see you do something from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.' So I did 'Bats Over Barstow,' from cold, on a sheet of acetate. That was the first thing we did. We went and printed in his little studio downtown, down on Main Street." With a laugh he added, "It was so small we nearly got ruptured every time we tried to get past the two tables he had in there." It was the first of many editions on which the pair would work together.

As for a favorite collaboration, Steadman says, "I think probably when we did 'Lizard Lounge' together, just to see the colors go down, trying to make it work. It was big. Huge. That one to me is one of the best." A sample of "Lizard Lounge" is shown in Figure 6.

In May 1995, Steadman returned to the US to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first Thompson/Steadman collaboration. On Derby Day, May 6, 1995, Thompson and Steadman signed 77 impressions of an image called "The Sheriff," which had been printed by Petro. The signing took place on the trunk of a white Cadillac at Thompson's Owl Farm near Woody Creek, CO between shooting sessions (that's shooting, as in guns). Thompson mixed and served Mint Juleps, in memory of his "old Kentucky home," Louisville.

Well-earned respect

Since Petro's last appearance in these pages, his work has been featured on 60 Minutes, Bay Watch, The X-Files, Murphy Brown, Undercover, Seinfield, ABC News, NBC News, CBS News, CNN, and too many other places to list. While his name may not yet be on the average person's celebrity list, a lot of celebrities now have Petro on their list.

Although technical mastery of his craft is a big reason why Petro's talents are in such high demand, Steadman attributes it to another of Petro's qualities. "Let me tell you, he's got a terrific talent for engaging the trust of the most diverse number of very well known people--you know, Rauschenberg, Adams, Rosenquist, Christo.... Kurt Vonnegut's a very good friend of his, and so is Jimmy Carter." Steadman continues, saying, "He's so likable. That's his strong point, bless his heart. He's a good man."

The biggest challenge Petro faces right now is getting everything done because he has more to do than there is time. The self-taught artist learned through experimentation and developed an outside-the-box style that he plays down as a throwback. But those who know him and his work readily see a maturity and sensibility of style that is very cutting edge.

Author's note: To learn more about artistic endeavors of the individuals presented in this article, visit the following Websites: www.joepetro.com, www.sideshow-art.com, www.vonnegut.com, www.jonathanwinters.com, and www.ralphsteadman.com.

About the author

Ed Newman is a freelance writer and marketing-communications specialist whose background includes positions with Amsoil, Inc. and The Chromaline Corp. Based in Duluth, MN, he has written more than 200 articles for publications serving a variety of industries. Newman also is an award-winning author of fictional work.


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