degrazia’s gallery in the sun

Posted on Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Born in an Arizona mining camp in 1909, Ettore DeGrazia exited this world the year I entered in 1982.  Would we have lived during the same years, I like to believe we would have met – perhaps at an art exhibition, a native Indian festival, or as fellow students at the University of Arizona (UA).  DeGrazia studied and earned several degrees at UA where he wrote an interesting thesis about the relationship between color and sound.  As fate would have it, I was introduced to his art during my visit at his Gallery in the Sun on a trip revisiting Tucson eight years after receiving my Bachelor of Arts from UA.  Ironically DeGrazia’s gallery is not far from where I lived as a student years ago.

Tucked in tightly between tall saguaros and dry desert rock, this nationally registered historical place is humble yet profound.  Built with his own passion and hard work, DeGrazia aimed to construct a haven where his paintings “would feel good inside.”  Upon arrival, I have not yet opened the doors and I find myself warmed.   The summer heat is tamed by massing monsoon clouds.  An iron entrance, modeled after a jail-style door, welcomes me.  Once I open the doors, I feel as though I’ve entered a gold mine.  The simple walls, carefully assembled of mud and straw, hold years of memories.  Carefully designing every detail of his gallery, DeGrazia says,


 The mud wall is masculine – physically strong and durable.  The straw is feminine – delicate as a thread.  Its color is sun and gold.


I blush, impressed and intrigued.  Stepping closer to angels and frames filled with chunky oiled art, I look down and notice the floor, constructed with pieces of collected jumping cholla cactus, what DeGrazia calls, “a magic rug.”  At times, I forget to breathe; I am taken into another time and place.  I am pulled into the magic of DeGrazia’s study, endlessly impressed at the historical interpretation of his collections, Padre Kino, Yaqui Easter, Cabeza de Vaca and others. Whimsical sketches and brushstrokes write the hardships of Spanish trekkers and Indians’ awe.  Spiritual exploration spills from the walls.  DeGrazia’s crown of Thanksgiving for the desert Indians is adorned with turquoise and silver and tells the story of the “Sahuaro Harvest.”  One of his first sculptures, Head of Christ, baked in his mother’s home oven, is proudly included in the collection.  The variety of his work reveals his diverse interests and talents.  And here I stand – the toughest challenge for me – I can’t decide which piece of art I love more.


Though never meeting DeGrazia in person, I feel as though I am a dancer in his painting – as though he splashed colors to a song I’ve once sung.


And as I feel this connection, I am surprised reading DeGrazia’s words, “As I painter I feel a magic goes into some paintings.  I don’t talk about it, because people may not understand.  But I really feel the magic.”  I would have told DeGrazia, “Talk to me.  I hear you.  I understand you.  I feel the magic.  Let’s wave our magic wands together in the beauty of your art.”  I wind my way back out of the gallery tunnel, designed like the mine in which he entered at his birth.  I think of DeGrazia now understanding why he enjoyed mines so much – they end in gold.



Quotes of Ettore DeGrazia were taken from the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun brochure.

To see DeGrazia’s beautiful artwork, please visit in person at the Gallery in the Sun located at 6300 North Swan Road in Tucson, Arizona.

feature image, Hoop Dancer, provided by Ettore “Ted” DeGrazia




  1. What a beautifully written introduction to an artist and gallery that was unknown to me. Sounds like a magical, beautiful sanctuary! I must look up his work online, as you have me intrigued! Thank you.

  2. Hi Sheryl. Yes, the gallery website is a great place to start. I hope you get the chance to visit. It is worth the trip. Thank you for your comment.

  3. Thanks so much for sharing your experience here at the gallery! We really appreciate the support and hopefully you will inspire others to visit!

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