Degree Granting Department
Ruth Banes, Ph.D.
Syncretism, Tourism, Religion, Arizona highways, Native Americans
Ettore "Ted" De Grazia (1909-1982) spent his artistic life painting the Native American stories and peoples of the Arizona Southwest. His art was touted in the popular press and is still admired by tourists and newcomers to Arizona, but he was not taken seriously by academicians and art critics who refused to grant him artistic enfranchisement. Many labeled his work "kitsch," a term made popular by Clement Greenberg in his 1939 essay, " Avant-Garde and Kitsch." De Grazia's popular whimsical paintings of Native American children were considered too cute to have artistic merit.De Grazia, in spite of criticism to the contrary, did create serious paintings worthy of critical evaluation. The paintings are infused with complex layered meanings relating to Southwest hybridity ---a blending of beliefs and cultural practices as a result of Spanish and later, American colonization.
De Grazia was part of the hybrid culture; born of Italian immigrants in the Territory of Arizona, he grew up speaking Italian, Spanish and English. Not only was he exposed to different languages, but also to corresponding cultural and religious practices. This thesis examines the social and economic changes in the United States during De Grazia's lifetime, along with the hybridity of the Southwest in relation to his artistic production. Changes in the world of art along with economic prosperity and the growing interest in tourism in the Southwest after World War II intersected with the art of Ted De Grazia. His relationship with Arizona Highways magazine, published by the Arizona Highway Department to entice travelers to visit Arizona, contributed to his success. De Grazia's contribution in the arena of Southwest hybridity can be seen in paintings that are in the formal collection of his work in his Gallery of the Sun in Tucson, Arizona.
The blending of religions, or syncretism, that Arizona tribes practice demonstrates a deep mysticism, profoundly influenced by the Spanish, but uniquely practiced in tribal ceremony and tradition. De Grazia's work makes a unique artistic contribution by illustrating the religious syncretism that was, and remains, an integral part of the Native American tribes in the Southwest.
Scholar Commons Citation
Dalton, Karen Jeanne, "Kitsch and Southwest hybridity in the art of Ted De Grazia" (2007). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.