Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Arizona's Ted DeGrazia: a multi-talented artist

DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun
Ted DeGrazia was a multi-talented artist who is best known for bringing the native cultures of the Sonora Desert to life. Besides working in oils, he also was a sculptor, worked in ceramics, designed his own adobe house in rural Tucson, did the landscaping for it, and created wind chimes using such diverse materials as horseshoes. He also turned aluminum and tin cans into whimsical flowers that today adorn posts at the gallery he built next to his house.

DeGrazia also was a talented trumpeter, paying his way through college by playing in a band. He also composed music, some of which can be heard playing in the gift shop at his gallery.

He also was a prolific artist. The DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun has three collections of his paintings that are rotated throughout the year. These are in addition to the paintings he sold or burned. Yes, burned. As a protest against an Arizona inheritance tax on art, he burned 100 of his paintings that had a combined value of $250,000. This was in 1976.

Whimsical can art
DeGrazia was born in 1909 in an Arizona mining camp where his father worked. His Italian immigrant parents named him Ettore; the nickname Ted was bestowed upon him by a teacher. He spent a few years living in Italy as a child, but returned to Arizona with his family when the mining camp reopened.

He studied art at the University of Arizona and did an internship with the famed Mexican artist, Diego Rivera.

His paintings are simplistic, perhaps because he used a palette knife, instead of a brush, to paint in oils. Children are featured prominently; some are playful while others seem ethereal, even religious tones. One unique feature common to his paintings is they have no background, other than perhaps a few swirls of muted color. A video showing the artist at work says he did this on purpose, because he wanted the viewer to create his own background.

DeGrazia died in 1982. His Gallery in the Sun is located in the Tucson foothills at 6300 N. Swan Road. It is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, but is closed major holidays. Admission is free.e also turned alumin

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