Brian Petro, a long-time D.C.-based artist, died Dec. 2 due to liver and kidney failure related to alcoholism, according to his friend, Mark Guenther. He was 46.
Petro was a native of central Pennsylvania and was born Oct. 1, 1970. He worked in sports medicine for six years before pursuing art full-time, which he did for the last 20-plus years creating multi-media works using ink, paint, old newspapers and more. He credited his style as inspired by the dichotomy of having grown up in a supportive yet rural area and the independence required for urban life, according to a bio he used professionally. He cited global travel and urban exploration as inspirations for his artistic aesthetic.
His work was shown in galleries in New York, Hawaii, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Washington, Rehoboth Beach, Del., and more. His clients included Absolut Vodka, which commissioned an ad used in Dupont Circle; the Ritz Carlton Hotels; Saks Fifth Avenue; IBM, which commissioned a 20-foot mural; the Library of Congress and others.
Petro was gay and had been in a long-term relationship with Ricardo Zapata that ended around 2011, though they remained friends. He is survived by long-time friends David Keuler, Mark Guenther and others. Petro moved to Washington in 2000. He lived in New York from 2008-2011 after which he returned to Washington.
A 20-year retrospective of his work was held at the Paper Gallery in Philadelphia, the first professional gallery to exhibit his work.
“Brian set the example of what it means to be a good human,” Guenther said. “He loved unconditionally and accepted people for who they were, no matter what. For me, he defined what it means to be a friend simply by being the example. He was one of the most creative, kind and generous people that I have ever met and I consider it one of the greatest gifts of my life to have had the privilege to call him my best friend.”
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, Jan. 7 at 4:30 p.m. at First Congregational United Church of Christ (945 G St., N.W.). After the service, Petro’s art will be for sale at a reception. Festive attire as one would wear to an art opening is requested.