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The late Ted DeGrazia: 'Way of the Cross' was a fine idea, he came to realize

The late Ted DeGrazia: 'Way of the Cross' was a fine idea, he came to realize

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"Religion is within yourself."


That was artist Ted DeGrazia's answer when he was first approached to paint the Stations of the Cross for the newly built St. Thomas More Catholic Newman Center on the University of Arizona campus.

Though he was born and raised Catholic, DeGrazia - who died in 1982 at age 73 after a long battle with cancer - wasn't a fan of organized religion and built his own adobe chapel on the Foothills property on North Swan Road where he lived with his second wife, Marion.

But he thought about it more and changed his mind.

His version of the stations - "Way of the Cross" - now hangs as a seasonal, Lenten display at DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun, 6300 N. Swan Road. It will be on exhibit until May 15.

"Religion is within yourself and you don't have to go to church and you don't have to be one of those people who goes every Sunday," DeGrazia, in a soft, deliberate voice, says in a 13-minute audio that accompanies "Way of the Cross."

The paintings, done in 1963, make up one of the Gallery's most popular exhibits, said Lance Laber, executive director of the DeGrazia Foundation. "People just come from everywhere to see this exhibit," he said.

DeGrazia's depiction of the Stations of the Cross - a series of pieces that follow Jesus' journey from condemnation to death - uses his unique style and vision to the max: DeGrazia used a palette knife to paint, saguaros pepper the background, and Jesus appears in the paintings as black, red, even yellow because, as DeGrazia explains in the audio, "Christ is in the image of the beholder."

Another DeGrazia twist: adding a 15th Station. The traditional Stations of the Cross feature 14 events, ending with Christ's death. "I never thought the cycle would be completed until we had the 15th station where Jesus arises from the dead," he says on the CD.

Here is a look at a selection of "Way of the Cross" with DeGrazia's own commentary.

Station 1. Jesus is condemned. "I feel that if 'The Way of the Cross' happened, then it was felt by everybody on the face of the Earth. Here in Arizona we have saguaros, so I chose to use the symbol of the saguaro to place it here. And I'm sure it happened everywhere."

Station 7. Jesus falls the second time. "As he carries the cross, this time he is yellow - the image of all the yellow people. It's much more difficult this fall than the first. He is really getting tired now. And on the right-hand side, there are three saguaros casting a shadow of a cross. Again, the background on this painting is yellow for hope and light."

Station 15. Jesus rises from the dead. "This time, I have a Yaqui deer dancer, I have a roadrunner and I have children happy with flowers. This is Easter. To me, this is the way 'The Way of the Cross' should end, with Christ as risen. Hallelujah and Happy Easter."


DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun

6300 N. Swan Road, 299-9191,

• What: "Way of the Cross" - artist Ted DeGrazia's version of Stations of the Cross.

• Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily, but the gallery is closed today for Easter. "Way of the Cross" is on display through May 15.

• Cost: Free.

Contact Kristen Cook at or 573-4194.

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