cherubs to gag and giggle

by Art Chantry:

this guy is one of my favorite drek artists. i’ve seen his crummy little pastel drawings of “injun” cherubs on plates and posters and greeting cards and just about every other piece of tourist crap you can imagine. i’m sure you have, too. ettore “ted” deGrazia hailed fom tucson and studied with some famous dudes (you’d never know it). he was a self-described sourdough/cowboy artist and went to great lengths to adopt the appearance. he wore a big ol’ worn-out ten gallon cowboy hat and a ‘gabby hayes’ beard and even carried a ‘six-shooter’ at all times. he did literally thousands of these little racist images- all of them virtually the same. he was sort of like the dale chihuly of racist cherubs, i guess. one hit over and over and over. makes me gag. and giggle.

---AC:but, i gotta be honest. as much fun as i make of these guys, i'd give my left nut to have their bank accounts. they are doing this correctly, according to amercian rules. i've done what i do completely wrong by his standards. i'm the idiot here, not deGrazia.---

i classify this guy right up there with ‘quack’ artists like chilhuly, neiman, nagel, keane, tretchikoff, max, kincaid and fairey. it’s like he’s one of those clowns who had a one-hit wonder and then re-issued it for decades and decades, always managing to sell almost as many as the first go ’round. these guys are like the bobby ‘boris’ picketts of the the art world. lotsa money to be made. but, oh! so embarrassin’. you wonder how they can sleep at night. but then, you read about their lives and the HUBRIS is astonishing. they always seem to think they’re the modern michealangelo reborn to satisfy your art needs.

‘ted’ deGrazia opened his first formal ‘art gallery’ in tucson in 1965. selling his rotten little ‘injum chillens’ to the tourists. as the art scene expanded in popularity down that way, he started to manufacture cheap prints and greeting cards and then began to market usage onto “art” plates and cups. before long he was worth millions with these images (virtually all the same).

i found a book (self-published of course – just like all those hundreds of chihuly tomes) called “DeGrazia – a Biographical Sketch.” my copy is the fifth printing from 1974. it’s a nicely printed little book full of the glorious journey of the cowboy sourdough deGrazia and his bounty of wonderful injun cherubs paintings (all for sale to you!!) it’s a classic of it’s ‘ilk’.

tucked inside this (used) copy i found a newspaper clipping from 1976. there is a photo of ted deGrazia in all his gabby hayes glory standing next to one of his icky little injun paintings. apparently, the tax laws changed around this time to make estates taxable. as a result, his paintings were estimated to be worth millions. he figgered his kids would inherit massive debt and be paying the oh-so-evil US government taxes on his estate for generations to come. so, he held a press conference announcing his plan to go out into the arizona desert and make a bonfire out of deGrazia paintings in protest. what a dude!! an american HERO!!

also inside this little volume i have i found yet another little newsclipping, apparently a small follow-up article to the first clipping. in it, he announced that he actually followed through with his threat and went out into the arizona desert and actually DID have a bonfire. he claims the kindling was 100 of his paintings – valued at over 1.5 million dollars (in 1976 dollars, of course.) his quote:

“this burning probably won’t change anything. the only satisfaction is in doing it. i may burn other paintings. maybe somebody who cares about my work will do something. who knows.”

of course, the value of his work skyrocketed afterwards and the prints and plates poured off the shelves after the bonfire. everybody was afraid they’d never be able to own their OWN little injun cherub and sort of panicked. if, indeed, he actually DID burn any REAL paintings (and not just the ‘repros’ that he sells as ‘real’), this act resulted in the remainder of his inventory quadrupled in value immediately. basically, he was smart enough to ‘explode’ his market and make millions more. his work – especially the ‘lost’ paintings (which have never been officially identified as far as i know) are so valuable, they make thomas kincaid prints look like kmart specials.

he died in 1982 an extremely wealthy man. i’m sure his “kids” are doing just fine. you can still buy his wretchedly cutesy-tootsie little

un cherubs in the gift shop in the strip mall near you. all’s well that ends well.


AC:magic’ is for bedtime (and the marketplace.) i’m not even an artist, i’m a graphic designer. i’m supposed to be the whore here. so, howcum he’s rich and i’m not?…by the way, the headline on that article i found in that vanity press volume is, “Rebel hides art from I.R.S.” ha ha!…this guy is what all of a mercian artist aspire to these days. the internet is full of deGrazia wannabes.

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