DeGrazia Gallery a must-see

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 21, 2012

“We didn’t do as much sight-seeing as we did last year,” my friend Billie said the day I was to board my flight home from Tucson after a week’s visit with her. I nodded “That’s right, but we’re a year older,” I said. We laughed. In fact, we laughed a lot during that week.

I had stepped from the airplane in Tucson weary and tired from a week of activities. During both the flight to Dallas and on the plane to Tucson, I never got comfortable. As Billie drove us to her house, there was nothing I wanted more than to sink into a recliner and relax. That’s exactly where I spent most of the following day. Billie lounged on a couch with her feet propped up. She was a bit weary, too, having recently returned from an RV trip to Texas that involved several days of driving.

We got caught up on each other’s news, reminisced about dulcimer festivals we attended at Tannehill Historic State Park through the years, discussed a little politics carefully (we ranged somewhat apart on that subject), talked about the books we had read, and made our sight-seeing plans. We found time most afternoons to retreat to our bedrooms to read a while or take brief naps.

The DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun in the foothills of the Catalina Mountains was high on our must-see list. We entered the gallery through heavy ornamental doors to find rooms filled with 15,000 originals of Ettore “Ted” DeGrazia’s oil paintings, watercolors, ceramics, and sculptures. A black and white documentary about the artist and his works played on screen in one room. In it was the little Indian girl whom DeGrazia said was the model for his Indian children paintings. He established the DeGrazia Foundation before his death to ensure the preservation of the gallery and to house permanent exhibitions of his artwork. He designed and built the adobe brick building with flooring also of brick mixed with pieces of dried cactus. I found it interesting, but uncomfortable to my feet.

The paintings of the Indian children, some depicted as angels, and groups of faceless Indians were endearing. I was touched by his various paintings of Christ. In 1960, a painting titled “Los Ninos” (the children) appeared on the UNICEF Christmas card. It brought him world-wide acclaim. He made national headlines again in 1976 when he set fire to more than 100 of his paintings on Superstition Mountains in protest of inheritance tax policies.

On the ride back, I marveled at the majesty of the mountains and the presence of those Saguaro cactus plants with their arms pointing skyward. As we turned into Billie’s street, she stopped to allow a pair of quail with three little ones trailing them to cross the road.

After a leisurely meal, we headed for the couch and recliner. “Now where did we decide to go tomorrow?” Billie asked. “Maybe we’ll remember in the morning,” I said, stifling a yawn.