New de Souza Gallery opens doors to art and a poetry series
Marilyn Souza’s journey of becoming an active supporter of the arts began long before she created the new de Souza Gallery on E. Third Street in April.
On March 1, 1980, she opened “a very tiny Christmas shop in a 100-year-old opera house” in Gridley called Santa Claus, Ltd. The little shop quickly expanded from selling Christmas ornaments to becoming, increasingly, an art gallery, thanks to the influence of now-deceased Gridley painter George DeHoff, whom Souza describes adoringly as “a man for all time.”
Souza was more than happy to provide a space to display DeHoff’s work, which, according to Souza, has been warmly received in some of the big arts cities such as San Francisco, Portland and New York.
"[DeHoff] is really the reason I started to change the store into a gallery,” she explained, as she pulled three of her coveted small DeHoff casein paintings—colorful and slightly quirky—from one of the de Souza drawers. Souza possesses the largest collection of DeHoff paintings, lovingly referring to the works as her “embarrassment of riches.”
Souza closed Santa Claus, Ltd. on its 10th anniversary, packed up shop and moved it to Main Street in Chico, where she christened it The Vagabond Rose, after a DeHoff painting. The artwork, as well as the beautiful Christmas ornaments, made the move from Gridley to Chico, and the business expanded into the bigger space.
Souza’s husband of 45 years, Earl, a retired professor, came on board as a framer about four years ago. “The only framer in town with a Ph.D. [it’s in secondary school curriculum],” she said with a chuckle.
Prompted by a desire to have a space devoted entirely to art, Souza acquired the new gallery April 18.
“I had primarily always wanted a space to show the art at its best without a lot of chaos going on,” she explained, referring to the fact that The Vagabond Rose functions as a combination of busy store, framing shop and gallery. When 152 E. Third St. opened, Souza jumped on it.
Quiet, painted in calming tones and soothingly lit, de Souza Gallery is an ideal spot to view the work of local artists such as Frances Miller and watercolorist/poet Bob Garner. De Souza is also making a name for itself as a host for quality poetry readings. Last Friday, I attended the last presentation of the “The Bob and Mark Show,” a three-installment summer series of readings by the popular Garner and his co-host, nurse/poet/Myrmex Press publisher Mark Clarke.
Garner and Clarke had some surprises in store for us. Besides getting to hear them read their own compelling poems (Clarke’s “A Moving Image,” about a mobile medical clinic that provides care for farm workers in the field, was, well, moving), we were treated to a number of other fine local poets—Patricia Wellingham-Jones, Danielle Alexich, Heather McCarthy, Rebecca Yarrow, Franz Cilensek and Souza, a budding and talented poet herself—reading from their works.
Tehama County resident Wellingham-Jones’ rural poetry was notable for its ability to produce insights and evoke images. Her “Walk among the Bulls,” newly published by Rattlesnake Press, was so vivid as to practically produce the smells of the countryside. Adding to the effect was the presence of a large flora painting by local plein-air artist Mabrie Ormes hanging directly behind her.
McCarthy’s “My Father’s Hand,” about watching her father fall in love with another woman while he was still with her mother, was touching and powerful, while Cilensek’s Haiku-inspired pieces were short and compelling. His untitled last poem closed the show: “In this twilight of the Cenozoic/ we can read from space/ the license plates on cars—/ but not the writing on the wall.”
A future de Souza reading devoted to Cilensek? I would like that.