Ted DeGrazia

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Ted DeGrazia is one of the best known artists in the world, and he was born in Arizona. He created thousands of pieces of artwork that have been recreated and sold internationally. The DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun in Tucson is holding a yearlong celebration to commemorate what would have been the artist’s 100th birthday.

Ted Simons:
Ted DeGrazia is one of the best known artists in the world, and he was born in Arizona. He created thousands of pieces of artwork that have been recreated and sold internationally. The DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun in Tucson is holding a yearlong celebration to commemorate what would have been the artist's 100th birthday. Tony Paniagua has our story.

Ted DeGrazia:
I couldn't afford a brush, so I thought the next best thing to do would be to start using a palette knife.

Tony Paniagua:
Ted DeGrazia was born in a small mining camp in southern California, but he attained fortune and fame around the world. DeGrazia's parents were Italian immigrants who settled in Morenci, and their son embraced the regional influences of his native state. He was a fan of Native American, Mexican and southwestern cultures, capturing their essence on canvas and other mediums in his own unique style.

Lance Laber:
It's important that we honor DeGrazia and remember him on his birthday. He brought a lot of culture to Tucson and the whole state. The whole country, for that matter.

Tony Paniagua:
DeGrazia died in 1982, but his influence perseveres in multiple countries.

Lance Laber:
In 1960, he gave UNICEF the rights to use one of his paintings, called "Los Ninos." It's children dancing in a circle. And they made greeting cards and sold millions and it made him the most reproduced artist in the world and as far as we know, he still has that title.

Tony Paniagua:
Kristine Peashock director of collections and exhibitions at the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun. The gallery has more than 15,000 original artworks in its collection, but it's putting on a special exhibition for the artist's birthday. The celebration is called "100 Years, 100 Works." It's a fraction of his accomplishments, but it aims to represent his colorful history and evolution.

Kristine Peashock:
People get to see the works they love but find out more about the man and his life and why he was doing certain types of art at certain times. For example, a lot of people know in 1976 he burned 100 of his paintings in a protest against the inheritance tax. In the show, we're going to have two watercolors rescued from that fire, which have never been shown before.

Tony Paniagua:
You'll also see works that are considered atypical for DeGrazia, such as this one: titled, "New York."

Kristine Peashock:
This is one of the only depictions of a big city scene that we have. It's not dated but we guess it's probably the mid-'50s, when he was in New York.

Tony Paniagua:
This other painting was larger and controversial. The power of the press made a presence at DeGrazia's alma mater, but did not survive the critics' disdain.

Kristine Peashock:
Most people would assume this was a DeGrazia work. It's actually a study for a mural that DeGrazia painted in the student union of the University of Arizona, where he earned three degrees. It's a political work, maybe critique of modern education. They ended up painting over this because some people were not fans of this at the University of Arizona, but we fortunately have this study.

Tony Paniagua:
The year-long celebration will also include better known pieces, such as "Don Quixote." Like the rest of his numerous oil paintings, this bright yellow depiction was created with a palette knife. Not a brush.

Kristine Peashock:
This was said to be his favorite painting. He served as his own model for this. He rode in the Superstition Mountains wearing this red serapi and had someone take pictures of him and then he created this painting from that.

Tony Paniagua:
But even if you don't care for his artwork, the gallery says DeGrazia is much more than a successful and famous artist. He's an essential part of our region and its contributions.

Lance Laber:
He's just an important figure. He was quite a guy. And he brought a lot of attention to our state. Brought a lot of attention to himself. Brought a lot of happiness to a lot of people.

Kristine Peashock:
His life as a native son of Arizona is very interesting. Just his evolution, you know, along with the times provides a historical context what was going on in Arizona and also just this place that he built, this gallery in the sun on 10 acres. It's an Arizona landmark, we're on the national register of historic places. And if you're at all interested in modern art, 20th century art, or Arizona architecture, any of that, then DeGrazia is relevant.

Lance Laber:
You'll never see anything like it anywhere else. It's all hand-built. He put himself into everything here. Painted all of the ceiling planks by himself and the walls by himself. 15,000 square feet of DeGrazia.

Tony Paniagua:
It's a taste of one of Arizona's most famous sons who added to the art scene internationally.

Ted DeGrazia:
As a matter of fact, all my paintings are completed but never finished. The onlooker can participate. I want them to come back and back again.

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