DeGrazia at Christmas

Born in Arizona in 1909 just before it became an American state, Ettore (Ted) DeGrazia can be said to have grown up with the state. All was new and alluring, Native Americans and Mexicans, a desert landscape of varying moods, the tall tales of an adventurous people – all the subjects of his later paintings.

But not at first. His father, an immigrant from Italy, worked in an underground copper mine, and young DeGrazia joined him at toil there. From sunrise to sunset he saw no light. That he must have, he decided, considering the art that was to come.

DeGrazia Little Madonna photo by

Above ground he attended the University of Arizona, where his first works caught the eye of famed Mexican muralist and devout communist Diego Rivera. Under his influence, DeGrazia created his own political mural, “Power of the Press,” which suggested he was still somewhat underground. In somber dark colors skeletons trampled over happiness, the four horsemen of the apocalypse galloped over snakes slithering through books. It was promptly whitewashed by an indignant university and lost to posterity.

DeGrazia Little Prayer Photo by

But DeGrazia was just getting started. He discovered every day life and how! You name the humdrum subject, he painted it. One day a belligerent man accosted him at a restaurant: “Who do you think you are, saying you can paint on anything?” In  response, DeGrazia took a tortilla out of a basket and painted on it. Missing a rare opportunity, the irate accuser stormed off, leaving behind the tortilla, which now rests at the Gallery in the Sun in Tucson, no doubt the most valued tortilla in existence.

Early on, a desperate DeGrazia put his paintings on sale at a busy intersection in Tucson, even leaving some overnight. The next morning they were still there. “The don’t even steal my paintings,” he complained. That was to change dramatically when he switched his subject matter from Diego and skeletons to winsome, playful, devout little children who seemed to bask in innocence. They were perfect for Christmas cards as UNICEF discovered when it sent out many millions of greetings featuring DeGrazia’s “los Ninos,” a circle of children dancing hand in hand. DeGrazia found his metier along with fame and fortune. But not to critical acclaim. He apparently had committed the offense of being too popular. Who does he think he is? scoffed a lofty art establishment. Bring back Diego who was at least serious. But DeGrazia stuck to his ways and his locale, a cheerful adobe home outside Tucson. He even turned down a show in Cannes, France, as too far removed from his life and work. “I was born in the Southwest and I live it with a passion,” he explained. He was an artist of a particular time and place, and there he stayed and there he will be remembered.

Is Revolution Ahead?

After career criminal Darrell Brooks, a black American, drove his car into a group of white people in Waukesha, Wisconsin, injuring dozens, killing six that we know of, a supporter said it sounds like the revolution has started. What kind of revolution does he have in mind? He doesn’t say, but there was one notoriously based on crime; namely, the Russian Revolution of 1917. Does that serve as a model for Darrell Brooks?

A top leader of the revolutionary Bolsheviks was Josef Stalin, who in his native  Georgia had pursued a career of crime almost without compare m the region. You name it – robbery, arsen, extortion, murder – he did it. Then he transferred those skills to the budding Russian Revolution in the middle of the turmoil of the First World War.

Whatever its ideological motivation, the Revolution would not have succeeded without Stalin’s criminal genius. That in turn took him to the top of Russia’s new communist government from where he compounded his crimes by massacring much of his own population, including fellow revolutionaries. Such is his example.

It may seem ridiculous to connect a minor American career criminal with the mighty ruler of the Soviet Union, but as Stalin well knew, revolutions have to start somewhere. The communists liked to portray the Tsarist regime they overthrew as uncompromisingly tyrannical, but compared to the state they constructed, it was carelessly permissive. Again and again, Stalin escaped serious punishment for major crimes, and his exile in Siberia was almost a holiday, a lapse he corrected with his own horrendous labor camps, the gulag.

Back to our local criminal. Brooks, too, was never seriously punished for his crimes, as he moved from one to the next, perhaps encouraging others to do the same. And he was one of many leniently treated by prosecutors financed by billionaire George Soros, a parallel to the wealthy backers of Bolshevism in Stalin’s time. America today is particularly viulnerable because many feel it must make up for past racial injustice by going easy on black crime today; hence, the lax treatment of  Brooks. But is that any favor to blacks or whites other than laying the groundwork for the hoped for revolution?

There’s no denying the deliberate attack on a group of innocent white people, largely women and children, aggravates already high racial tensions. That is what our would-be revolutionies want. This overlooks the fact that people of all races continue to work peacefully together on a daily basis in contemporary America. A small minority objects to this and always will. Just think if somewhere along the way, Stalin had actually been stopped. No revolution, no communist takeover, and the world might be a better place today.