Photo Essay: An artist’s Gallery in the Sun

While we were in Tucson in December, we visited the studio and gallery of Ted deGrazia, an artist I have always known about, because when my grandmother lived in Tucson, she met Mrs. deGrazia and they became friends. She of course introduced my grandmother to her husband, and since then, his whimsical paintings of children and Southwest scenes have become familiar to my family.

The day we visited deGrazia’s Gallery in the Sun was a good one, because the weather outside was cold, rainy and windy, no fun for outside activities. We had plenty of time to browse – and shop!

The following are pictures I took in the gallery and in the chapel behind it where he painted murals.

Entrance to the Gallery property
Entrance to the Gallery property
Plaque in the garden in front of the gallery
Plaque in the garden in front of the gallery

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KODAK Digital Still Camera
The artist explains here how he conceived and created some of the floors and walls of the gallery.

The artist explains (quoted on the central panel): “A wall  out of mud is beautiful and satisfying, but a wall of mud and straw is a union of materials that are in complete harmony and produce an aesthetic feeling, long to be remembered. To me this is the great Southwest. The mud wall is masculine – physically strong and durable. The straw is feminine – delicate as a thread. Its color is sun and gold. Some of the walls in my new Gallery in the Sun are like this.

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Wall of mud and straw, with inserted panels in plaster, containing various pictorial scenes.

“On other gallery walls I use plaster with rough gravel – heavy on the cement and not much lime. This produces a severe texture. Then, while the plaster is still wet, I paint it with at least three colors, sometimes as many as six. Colors are used to achieve the counterpart of the structure, to soften the walls. The result is that they come alive.  They sing and exude beauty.”

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Note the plaster walls and “cholla cactus” floors in this room of the gallery.

About the floors, deGrazia explains, “On some of the Gallery floors, I use mud; on others, jumping cholla cactus. The cholla, cut about four inches long …is sanded and sealed with wax. The tops of some of the cholla I dye in color. Then I bed them in cement. The finished floor produces a feeling of walking in a strange magic place. You see it, you feel it in your feet – texture on your toes, so to speak….”

You notice different colors in the plaster walls throughout the gallery, which enhance the paintings in that room.

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“Raiding Indians Steal Horses from Kino Village”
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“Fiesta at San Xavier” (Oil on canvas). San Xavier is the mission we visited a day or so later.
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“Hurricane in Santo Domingo” (Ink on Canvas) Cabeza de Vaca collection, 1973

 

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“Medicine Man” Oil on canvas, Cabeza de Vaca Collection

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Untitled – Oil on canvas
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“Wedding Dancers” Oil on canvas, Consignment Collection – 1957. This painting is for sale for $10,500.
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“Untitled – Family with Roosters”, Watercolor on paper, Consignment Collection, circa 1950s. For sale – $3,700.

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“Untitled – Two Angels Lighting Saguaro”, ink and gouache on paper, Consignment Collection (no date), $3,200.
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I love the vivid colors in these paintings.

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The following quoted from a sign entitled Papago Indian Legends.

“DeGrazia created this collection of Papago legends in 1975. During the 1980s, the Papago name was officially changed to Tohono O’odham, which means Desert People in the O’odham language.

“DeGrazia chose four legends to depict the Tohono O’odham tradition of storytelling: Creation of the World, the Monster of Quitovac, the Eagle-Man and Ho’ok.

“The Eagle-man was a handsome man until he accepted a drink offered by a maiden that turned him into a clumsy eagle. He flew to the highest mountain peak where he lived in a cave, then captured a beautiful Papago woman and made her his wife. She gave birth to his baby, half human and half eagle, and she hated them because they ate her people. Eetoi used his magic to kill them and rescue her.

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“Ho’ok was a wicked witch with talons of an eagle and a big appetite for children. The Indians summoned Eetoi, who drank and danced with the witch until she slept and was carried to her cave, which was sealed and lit on fire. She tried to escape but Eetoi put his huge foot on a boulder at the mouth of the cave, keeping Ho’ok inside until she burned up.

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“Ho-ok and Children”

“The Creation of the World started when Earthmaker and Yellow Buzzard were floating in space, and Earthmaker scraped dirt from his chest to make the earth and everything on it. He made two supernatural beings he called Eetoi and Coyote. Together they made people out of clay and baked them. The first were burnt black, so the creators threw them to the other side of the earth. The second batch was too pale, so they threw them across the sea. The third batch was nice and brown, creating the Papago.

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“The Monster of Quitovac lived in a lake, but when he awoke, he ate so many Papagos that the remaining ones moved to the dry desert to get away from him. Armed with a knife, Eetoi challenged the monster, who swallowed him, but Eetoi found the monster’s heart and severed it with his knife.”

The style of the two paintings below is different than DeGrazia’s usual style. The first one I think is called “The Gathering.”

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KODAK Digital Still Camera

Yaqui Easter Ceremony – A sign says the following:

“DeGrazia created this collection in 1967 after observing the ceremonies with his Yaqui friends. ‘For forty days and forty nights it goes on and on,’ he explained. ‘It is their big celebration of the year. Preparations go on for a long time. All the trappings for the costumes are made. Masks are carved, paper flowers made, wood is gathered, food prepared. Then on Ash Wednesday there is the beginning. Like everything else, it starts with a small crowd.

“‘Friday after Friday until Easter it grows bigger and bigger until they almost go into ecstasy, like a big explosion. It is not consistent. It is not entirely Catholic or pagan. But it is sacred. There is an excitement attuned to both.’

“DeGrazia concluded that the Yaquis adapted the story of Jesus told by the early missionaries and ‘stylized it to fit their personality, always full of variations. I never ask because it’s none of my business. I just watch.’

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“On Saturday night preceding Palm Sunday, an all night fiesta is held with processions, religious services, dancing and the beloved Deer Dancer ceremony. The pascola storytellers jest with the crowd and pursue the Deer Dancer, who portrays a deer in the forest eluding his captors. The ceremony inspired DeGrazia to create the seven-foot bronze statue of the Deer Dancer in the gallery’s cactus courtyard.

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Deer Dancer statue in the cactus courtyard

“The forty paintings in this collection are reproduced in full color in the book DeGrazia Paints the Yaqui Easter with brief descriptions of each event written by the artist.”

"Mary Looks for Jesus" (oil on canvas) Yaqui Easter collection
“Mary Looks for Jesus” (oil on canvas) Yaqui Easter collection
Procession of Judas (Oil on canvas) Yaqui Easter Collection - 1967
Procession of Judas (Oil on canvas) Yaqui Easter Collection – 1967

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KODAK Digital Still Camera

The Cactus Courtyard

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DeGrazia built the first guesthouse on the gallery grounds in 1954 for his friend, Western artist and writer Ross Santee. It was located … on a sandy island in the middle of an arroyo… The Island House was dismantled in 1990 due to vandalism.

The Gallery garden

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Dead Bull (Oil on canvas - Bullfight Collection - 1966)
Dead Bull (Oil on canvas – Bullfight Collection – 1966)
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I bought prints of these three paintings, had them framed, and they now hang in my living room.
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From a series of paintings about the journeys of Father Junipero Serra. The sign quotes De Grazia (in part): “The Rose of Castile”: from this incident I chose the title of the book. Can you imagine the joy of Serra, how he must have felt coming upon a beautiful rose in the middle of nowhere? … It brought memories of Spain.

In the following painting of men dead and dying on the beach in San Diego Bay, DeGrazia used colors which would depict the horror of that day.

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“Death from Scurvy. July 1, 1769” (Oil on canvas) From The Rose and the Robe (Father Junipero Serra) collection
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Serra and Portola found the Bay of Monterey, “Serra by sea, Portola by land. A bell was hung in an old oak tree, mass was celebrated, and possession of the land was officially taken for the church and the King of Spain. … They sang, the bells rang, and the spirders witnessed.”
"Starvation for Serra's Soldiers, July 1770" Oil on canvas
“Starvation for Serra’s Soldiers, July 1770” Oil on canvas
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Harvesting of Wild Grapes. Fall 1773″ (Oil on canvas) From The Rose and the Robe” series about the travels of Father Junipero Serra.
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“With all the bells ringing at Capistrano, all the beautiful things in that early California, right on the border with Yuma, still the Indians were unhappy. They didn’t like the Spaniards taking over their land, the horses trampling their gardens, or the soldiers spoiling their women. So they plotted and killed, except women. … They wanted to get rid of all the Spanish.”
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This painting is about the Indian rebellion of November 5, 1775, in which a priest was killed.
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Pioneers going west

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Leaving the gallery, we took the path to the Chapel.

The Chapel
The Chapel
Chapel interior (looking toward altar)
Chapel interior (looking toward altar)
Inside the chapel, showing DeGrazia murals
Inside the chapel, showing DeGrazia murals

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We exited the Gallery in the Sun and Chapel through the swinging door at right.

 

 

 

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