Daughter seeks exhibit space for work of her 91-year-old mother, a former gallery owner in La Jolla Shores

A painting by artist Mary Little, who owned the Mary Moore Gallery in La Jolla Shores in the 1970s.
(Courtesy of Pamela Little)

Despite having owned a gallery in La Jolla Shores, artist Mary Moore (now Mary Little) never showed her own work. It wasn’t for lack of material — the now-91-year-old creates a floral painting every day and has hundreds in her collection.

To give Mary the opportunity to have an exhibition in her lifetime, her daughter Pamela Little is looking for a space in La Jolla to showcase her work.

“My mother’s paintings have always reflected her beautiful soul,” Pamela told the La Jolla Light. “I don’t want an exhibition of her work to be a memorial service after she’s gone, when she doesn’t get to be there. It seems so unfair to me that she didn’t show her own work when it was so good. I understand her not wanting to sell her work, but showing it is of great value to recognize her talent.”

The Mary Moore Gallery was next to the Cheese Shop on Avenida de la Playa in La Jolla Shores in the 1970s. At the time, she showed works by artists such as Francoise Gilot and hosted events attended by Gilot’s husband, scientist Jonas Salk, actors Richard Dreyfuss and Dustin Hoffman and artists Rufino Tamayo, Channing Peake and Benjamin Serrano.

“I had a wonderful time. I centered on artists who weren’t known,” said Mary, who wanted to open the gallery under her maiden name because she didn’t want to call it the “Little Gallery.” “I felt very fortunate. La Jolla was just starting to be culturally developed.”

Always inspired to create art, Mary has been painting since she was 9. “I went to architecture school to study rendering; I thought that’s what I would do,” she said. “I developed an eye for what was remarkable in the art world at the time. And my instructors said I had an eye for color, so I gravitated to watercolor so I could use all kinds of color in different shades.”

She painted while on travels throughout Europe with her family, the memories of which are burned into her daughter’s mind. “My mom is most herself when she is painting, and she always has been, so she wanted to paint everywhere we traveled,” said Pamela, a La Jolla High School graduate.

A painting from Greece hangs in Pamela’s home in Redlands.

Mary Little paints a seascape of Greece while on a family vacation in this undated photo.
(Courtesy of Pamela Little)

Now, in her retirement years, Mary paints watercolors and flower scenes.

“Paintings of flowers last forever, and it’s hard to find something you can do in a nightgown,” Mary joked. “Every painting you do is like a puzzle. My son brings me bouquets every day and I piece together the placements, color style and what to include. It’s wonderful to do in my older age.”

“I don’t want an exhibition of her work to be a memorial service after she’s gone, when she doesn’t get to be there. ... Showing it is of great value to recognize her talent.”

— Pamela Little

Mary said it takes her about five hours to complete each painting because they are done “in the realistic style.” Some are framed and others are stored in closets.

“The news is frightening right now, and painting flowers is a pleasant experience for me,” she said. “It’s such an easy thing to do when you can’t be too physical. It’s a blessing if you can enjoy it. It has allowed me to enjoy life in that I can do something and not think about how much the world is changing.

“I’ve always been visually sensitive, so flowers are perfect for that. It gives you a feeling of accomplishment. I enjoy watercolor. They have a certain light that I enjoy. The colors can be more variable. It’s the most enjoyable medium.”

Mary said she doesn’t have a plan for her paintings, though she does intend to sell them in her lifetime.

But Pamela says she wants to have a gallery showing in La Jolla to honor her mother’s work.

“It has to be La Jolla because that’s where she lived and worked, and it has to be a gallery because that’s what she operated,” Pamela said.

But she acknowledged there may be a struggle in finding such a space because no paintings will be sold.

As an alternative, Pamela said she would be willing to partner with an organization to have the exhibit as part of a fundraiser.

“The gallery is alive in her,” Pamela said. “I’d want her there for her to see it shown. And she deserves this recognition.”

Any gallery interested in showing Mary’s work or getting more information can email Pamela at ◆