The California gallery owner who turned a candy store into an artistic community
SACRAMENTO — Adeliza McHugh didn’t even have a name for her gallery when she approached Irving Marcus to show her work. It was 1962 or 1963 and the space she had in mind was more of a hope and a dream than something real. Yet she had seen his paintings at the Crocker Art Gallery in Sacramento and knew he captured what she envisioned: art that moved; art that was interesting; art, as she often said, with a “kick”.
Marcus asked for the name of his gallery and McHugh quickly suggested the Candy Store.
“She was actually selling candy at the time,” says Scott Shields, associate director and chief curator of the Crocker Art Museum (formerly the aforementioned Crocker Art Gallery). “The candy sales stopped when the health department came in and said she had to do so much to get her up to code.”
The Candy Shop: Funk, Nuts, and Other Arts with a Kickhosted by Shields at the Crocker, celebrates the contributions of McHugh and his candy store to Bay Area and California art.
The show is anchored by Crocker’s impressive collection of Californian ceramics and paintings, and includes pieces by Robert Arneson, Sandra Shannonhouse, Roy De Forest, David Gilhooly, Irving Marcus, Peter VandenBerge and other artists from the California area. the bay whose work has regularly graced the Candy Store. two showrooms.
The artwork on display at the Crocker demonstrates the sense of creative chaos people might have felt upon entering the Candy Store for the first time. Many pieces are figurative and many are irreverent. The work could be political, subversive and funny. Nothing here seems to take itself too seriously. Part of the work is downright scatological.
“Robert Arneson said he gave her some of the roughest pieces he could think of. And she sold them all,” says Shields.
Few records exist today that could tell us about the financial history of the candy store. The biggest clue we have is that McHugh kept the doors open for 30 years, between 1962 and 1992, and over the course of her life she saw several artists who started their careers in her space become nationally and internationally renowned. .
“What’s a wonder to me is that she was able to get by in this little place in Folsom [near Sacramento], at the end of Sutter Street, and selling this really extravagant avant-garde stuff,” notes Shields. “His aesthetic, his eye was so far ahead of what any other gallery had been showing for so long. She had an incredible ability to select artists who were going to do well. Even today, it is difficult for gallery owners in our region to make it work, and Adeliza made it work for 30 years. Showing some of the most cutting edge art you can find in our area.
She was stubborn, determined to proselytize her vision of art with a kick. While many of his sales went to long-time collectors, countless people were won over by the “hard sell”. These were people who knew little of this kind of art, even some who showed up at the gallery sincerely believing that McHugh was hawking confections. But they would invariably meet McHugh (who lived above the gallery) and come to understand his sense of perseverance.
Those who weren’t quick to buy the art received offers to take a work home, to “live with it” and pay for it over time, often at prices as low as $10 a month. Shields recalls an artist who saw McHugh physically blocking a potential client from her gallery door until she closed the sale.
Still, not all sales were so difficult. McHugh and her gallery had a reputation distinct from any superstar artist she showed and sold. Celebrities, such as actor Vincent Price (who was a major art collector and patron), came to the small town of Folsom specifically to see what she had on display.
For a time, she had a second location in San Francisco at Maija Peeples-Bright’s Rainbow House, which she occupied while Peeples-Bright lived in Italy. And although her San Francisco outpost never attracted the audiences that flocked to the original, she used the location to work with galleries in New York.
Shields explains: “I don’t know if anyone could do that today. Part of that was that his overhead was so small. This confluence of energies at this particular moment, she captured it. Really ride this wave. I think she would have ridden it longer if the weather hadn’t meant that she had to move on. I don’t know if it was health or just time to retire for Adeliza. I think she was really slowing down. She had a birthday party about a decade later, so she was there for quite a while afterwards.
McHugh’s aesthetic centered on counterculture figures who gravitated to the Bay Area and proliferated among the art programs at University of California Davis and Sacramento State University during this period.
Its galleries featured many people who had participated in the work of Peter Selz Funk show at the University of California, Berkeley, as well as self-proclaimed Nut performers like Clayton Bailey, and Jim Nutt and the others in Chicago’s Hairy Who.
The work could be loose, idiosyncratic, bright and garish. And yet, in the candy store, these pieces looked right at home next to each other. McHugh’s love of art and his passion for artistic careers created a sense of community among artists and artwork. If art and artists shared nothing else, they shared Adeliza McHugh.
The intimate walls of the Candy Store and the welcoming embrace of McHugh became a haven for these artists. Many have shown with her early or near the start of their careers, fresh out of college or just venturing into the professional art market.
According to Shields, “The cross-fertilization of ideas was strong. These people were friends and hung out together, went to his Sunday openings, sat for hours on his porch and drank white wine and his lemon cake. There was a lot of interaction. That was part of it. It’s hard to say how much her patronage and the sales she made helped these artists go on to become the figures that some of them have become. Without her, would they have done it? I don’t think it would have been that easy for some of them.
The Candy Shop: Funk, Nuts, and Other Arts with a Kick continues at the Crocker Art Museum (216 O Street, Sacramento, CA) through May 1. The exhibition was curated by Scott Shields, Associate Director and Chief Curator of the Crocker Art Museum.
This article was made possible with support from the Sam Francis Foundation.