Last week when Terry and I were having dinner at a local seafood restaurant, she noticed the label on a bottle of wine on display and said it reminded her of the artwork of Ted DeGrazia. That brought back a lot of memories for me.
If you’re not into Southwestern art or haven’t lived in Arizona, you might not know who Ted DeGrazia was. And if that’s the case, you missed out.
Ettore “Ted” DeGrazia was a man of many talents. An actor, a director, an architect, a jeweler, and a lithographer, among his many accomplishments, DeGrazia is best known as an artist and sculptor, famous for his images of the American Southwest and especially Native American children. He has been called the most reproduced artist in the world.
I met Ted DeGrazia many years ago when he came into a store I owned on Campbell Avenue in Tucson, Arizona, asking if I had a telephone he could use because his truck had a flat tire, and he didn’t have a spare. I had no idea who this old man was, but after he made his phone call we talked for a while until his son or somebody came to help him. I liked him right from the start, and he invited me to stop up at his Gallery In The Sun sometime, which I did. It didn’t take long to become a fan of both the man and his artwork.
DeGrazia was an interesting character who was known not only for his wonderful creations but also for getting his point across no matter what the situation was. There is an old story about how he was once eating lunch in a restaurant with a friend when a so-called art critic came to his table to tell him that he was not impressed with DeGrazia’s work, saying, “You’re that guy who thinks you can paint on whatever you want, right?” It has been said that DeGrazia took a tortilla from a basket on the table and began to paint it. Then, when he was finished, he signed his autograph on the man’s white shirt with his paintbrush and said, “Now I have painted on everything.” For years the tortilla was on display at the Gallery In The Sun, and may even still be.
Perhaps the most memorable way DeGrazia got his point across was back in 1976 when he rode horseback into the Superstition Mountains and burned more than a hundred of his paintings, worth an estimated $1.5 million dollars, to protest the federal inheritance tax, which made him a millionaire on paper but that his heirs would not have the money to pay after he died.
I remember telling DeGrazia that someday I wanted to write books, and he handed me a pen and a piece of paper and said, “Then write a book. Don’t wait for someday. If I never picked up a paintbrush, I would never be an artist.” It took me a long time to get around to following his advice, and I wish I would have listened sooner.
Back in those days, DeGrazia put out a limited edition of 500 self-portrait sculptures of himself leaning against a pole, and I was fortunate enough to be given one as a gift. I treasured it and kept it on my desk for many years until a spiteful estranged wife smashed it, which broke my heart.
I had forgotten about that until last week when Terry and I got to talking about him, and I told her about the statue. She asked if I thought I could still find one, and just for the heck of it I looked on eBay, and sure enough, I did! The mailman delivered it yesterday, and now it sits on top of my rolltop desk. It’s good to see you again, Ted.
Another very talented friend of mine is my pal Donna McNicol, who we met when we were fulltime RVers many years ago. Donna is the author of quite a few excellent mystery books and novellas, and she just released AN ELF-ING MESS, a holiday cozy mystery short story. Check it out. I know you’ll enjoy it.
It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of The Scribe’s Daughter, the first book in Stephanie Churchill’s Crowns of Destiny historical fantasy series about a young heroine who escapes a brutal prison to journey through imperial cities, dark swamps, and across stormy seas to unravel clues to the mysteries of her family’s past. In doing so, her discoveries make her the target of a man who would use her for his own dark ends. But first he has to catch her.
To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.
Thought For The Day – Ladies, please stop asking Santa for a handsome, sensitive, sexy man. I was almost kidnapped by elves twice yesterday.
A fascinating and interesting experience …with a great ending.
Nick, that story reminds me of something that happened years ago.
When Fonda and I still had Service Motors, the Crosley business, I got home from my other job, and there was a customer here. I noticed that his license plate was from Arizona, which got my attention.
We chatted for a long time about Arizona, the desert and Ghost Towns, etc.
I found out that his name was Emmet Kelly JR., which to me meant nothing, he was just and interesting desert guy.
The next day, I was chatting with another employee at work, he informed mt that Emmet, was THE Emmet Kelly JR, a world famous clown.
Emmet was never a celebrity to me, just a good friend.
When I wen to Tombstone, we ate meals together, visited at his home, I worked on his cars and RV A/C, just as any other friendship. Great guy, overall.