LOS ANGELES—Parker Gallery is presenting a tribute to the Candy Store Gallery. Nestled on a hillside above the historic mining town of Folsom, CA, the Candy Store was a little-known yet deeply beloved detour from Sacramento. The proprietor, Adeliza McHugh, was a rare breed: an aspiring confectioner who, at fifty years of age, made the audacious decision to open an art gallery after her efforts to sell almond nougat were rebuffed by the local health department. 1
The Candy Store includes original works of art by Suzanne Adan, Robert Arneson, Luis Cruz Azaceta, Clayton Bailey, Roy De Forest, David Gilhooly, Irving Marcus, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Jack Ogden, Maija Peeples-Bright, Sandra Shannonhouse, Michael Stevens, Chris Unterseher, Peter VandenBerge and Joseph Yoakum. The upstairs gallery features original Candy Store posters, announcements and photographs, together with various exhibition catalogues.
Adeliza’s impressive artistic orbit can be traced to two key artists of the Candy Store gang: Robert Arneson and Irving Marcus. Marcus was singled out by Adeliza after she stumbled upon his work in a group exhibition of local talent at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento. Adeliza managed to convince him to let her take a few works on consignment. “Within three days she sold the first one to a man working at Aerojet who wanted to buy some candy for his wife. Adeliza said, ‘why not buy her a painting instead?’ and he did.” 2 Marcus soon introduced her to fellow art faculty at Sacramento State College, including Jack Ogden and later, Gladys Nilsson and Jim Nutt.
Robert Arneson fondly remembered Adeliza’s first visit to UC Davis: “This lady came and told me she had this little house in Folsom and she wanted to open up a gallery. I thought she was kind of silly…so I gave her some real raunchy funky cups I had made, little small works that were relatively sexual…maybe a little scatalogical. They were totally off the wall and no one on earth, certainly in Folsom, California was going to touch anything like that…in about two weeks time she came back to my studio and said, ‘well, I need some more work.'” 3
Pleasantly surprised by Adeliza’s prowess, Arneson would introduce her to his circle at UC Davis, including Roy De Forest and graduate students David Gilhooly, Chris Unterseher and Peter VandenBerge. Roy De Forest and Clayton Bailey would make a weekend of the Candy Store; driving their work up on a Saturday night and camping out alongside the Folsom Lake Reservoir before attending the opening on Sunday afternoon. 4 With the promise of Adeliza’s homemade lemon cake, some folks came all the way from Los Angeles. There was plenty of fanfare for a visit by actor and art collector Vincent Price: “Adeliza McHugh is one of those rare people so sensitive to the art for which she has a feeling, that she makes you feel it too. Most of the work she shows has naive qualities, and of course, this very naivete makes it all highly sophisticated.” 5
Adeliza’s Candy Store remains an unfathomable footnote in Northern California’s art history. The gallery’s longevity (1962 – 1992) only adds to the anomaly. How Adeliza McHugh, without any formal experience in art, cultivated one of the most forward-thinking contemporary art programs, so far removed from any major arts capital, is a quandary that almost certainly confused the big-city dealers with whom she shared her artists (namely Allan Frumkin and Phyllis Kind) and one that will surely plague future art historians debating the matter.
1. Philip E. Linhares, “Outsider on the Inside?” Clayton Bailey’s World of Wonders, Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA, 2001 (pg. 8).
2. David Gilhooly, “Welcome to the Candy Store!” Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA, 1981 (pg. 6).
3. Oral history interview with Robert Arneson, 1981 (August 14-15). Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
4. Conversation with Betty Bailey (March 2018).
5. Vincent Price, “Way Out Art Found Way Out of the Way,” Barron’s (March 16, 1988).