The Superstitions are as familiar a part of the local landscape as places and names like Dobson Ranch or Ellsworth Road, but a compact show at Superstition Mountain Museum is giving renewed perspective to the craggy range.
The fabled and imposing mountains on our eastern horizon loom large in late artist Ted DeGrazia’s “Superstition Collection,” an amassment of about 30 pieces tucked into a corner of the Apache Junction museum. Many of the works have been locked away for years in a Tucson vault.
It’s worth a stop to see them, because DeGrazia didn’t just paint pretty pictures of the mountains we all know; he illuminated in drawings, paintings and short essays his take on some of the most famous stories surrounding the Supes and their legendary lost gold mine — from the slaughter of Mexican miners at Massacre Grounds to the night Apaches blindfolded Dr. Abraham Thorne and led him on horseback to the gold.
DeGrazia also brought to light lesser-known lore, such as a race of impish, rabbit-riding “little people” said to live in the Supes.
We’ve all heard the tales, but seeing them imagined in pencil, ink and watercolor makes them interesting again.
The world-famous artist himself is someone old timers in A.J. might still remember. Born Ettore DeGrazia in 1909 in the territorial Arizona mining town of Morenci, his painting “Los Niños” was chosen by UNICEF in 1960 for a greeting card that sold millions worldwide, and his depictions of American Indian and Hispanic children define a certain style of Southwestern whimsy.
DeGrazia went on to build and work from a studio in the Superstition foothills, and in 1976 he hauled his paintings into the mountains and burned them in an act of protest against the IRS that made national news.
Some say, though it’s never been confirmed, that DeGrazia buried some of his own paintings in water-tight tubes throughout the Supes, leaving a treasure story of his own for future generations to uncover. He died in 1982.
If you go
What: Famed artist Ted DeGrazia’s “Superstition Collection” breathes new life into familiar mountains.
When: On view 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily through April 30
Where: Superstition Mountain Museum, 4087 N. Apache Trail, Apache Junction
Cost: $5 for adults, $4 for seniors 55 and older, $2 for students with i.d, free for children
Information: (480) 983-4888 or SuperstitionMountainMuseum.org