READ IT: Arizona-born artist Ted DeGrazia’s paintings pulse with bold brush strokes and bright blocks of vibrant color. His faceless figures of Native American children and rough-textured landscapes immerse viewers in the Southwest and its culture. But the man behind these paintings remained a mystery to many well past 1982, when he died of cancer. In DeGrazia: The Man and the Myths ($29.95, University of Arizona Press), authors James W. Johnson and Marilyn D. Johnson attempt to construct a comprehensive picture of DeGrazia from mere puzzle pieces – stories in newspapers, magazines, books, a handful of personal papers, and a dozen interviews with peripheral people from DeGrazia’s past. The result is an entertaining profile of a mischievous man who built a wall of privacy around himself while struggling for approval and widespread recognition of his work.
SEE IT: A garbage bag bulging with trash is actually a 250-pound piece of solid marble. A pack of American Spirit cigarettes is really a sculpture composed of foam, plastic, paper, paint and magnets. Such is the mischievous, don’t-believe-your-eyes nature of Lifelike, on view through May 18 in the Steele Gallery at Phoenix Art Museum. Each piece in the exhibition represents an ordinary object recreated through materials like bronze and plastic.
ARTIST OF THE MONTH: Three giant Chinese finger traps made from miles of woven seat belts dangle from the ceiling and walls in Downtown’s new Grant Street Studios. They point to the propensity for play that runs through artist Bobby Zokaites’ projects. After all, this is the guy that co-created the 20-foot-long “The Machine the Sneetches Built,” based on a Dr. Seuss book, in Kansas City, Mo.
Before you open Jeremy Jackrabbit Captures the Sun (Dandak Publishing, 2014), you get a taste of the colorful art waiting between the pages. Husband-and-wife authors Rodney and Sasha Glassman write the text (in English and Spanish) for their children’s book series, but thanks to a partnership with the Phoenix Public Library to hold illustration contests for K-8 students, all the bright drawings adorning the book’s thick, glossy pages are done by Arizona kids.
READ IT: Some hiking guides are as dry as the Phoenix heat, but local scribe Lilia Menconi's trail tome, Take a Hike Phoenix: Hikes within Two Hours of the City (Moon Outdoors) takes a conversational tone that feels like having a hiking buddy chatting by your side through the switchbacks.