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Former La Jolla Shores gallery owner, 91, gets a chance to show her own watercolors

Artist Mary Little (also known as Mary MacLaren) is a former gallery owner in La Jolla Shores.
Artist Mary Little (also known as Mary MacLaren) is a former gallery owner in La Jolla Shores.
(Courtesy of Pamela Little)

After a lifetime of painting and months of outreach by her family, 91-year-old artist Mary Little will get an exhibition of her work.

A collection of her floral-inspired pieces will be on view Sept. 27-30 at BFree Studio in La Jolla. Little, who used to own a gallery in town, will go by her former married name Mary MacLaren for the show.

For the record:

3:44 p.m. Aug. 9, 2022This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Mary MacLaren’s last name.

Earlier this year, MacLaren’s daughter, Pamela Little, started reaching out to local galleries and art institutions in an effort to find a place to showcase her mother’s work.

Despite having owned a gallery in La Jolla Shores, artist Mary Moore (now Mary Little) never showed her own work.

“My mother’s paintings have always reflected her beautiful soul,” Little 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.”

MacLaren ran the Mary Moore Gallery under her maiden name in the 1970s in La Jolla Shores, and given her history in the area, her daughter wanted the show to be in La Jolla. She called every place she could think of, from libraries to museums.

Barbara Freeman of BFree Studio at 7857 Girard Ave. was quick to show interest. BFree opened in August 2021 with a plan to feature lesser-known artists and rotate exhibits every two weeks or every month.

“I wanted to show Mary’s work because I’m interested in the history of art galleries and artists that have worked here in La Jolla,” Freeman said. “I also thought it was a wonderful opportunity for us to give back to the community.”

Little said her mom “has always been the center of our family, so it thrills us all to see her take center stage in town for an exhibit. We thank Barbara Freeman for offering to showcase and sell her floral watercolors just in time for her 92nd birthday [Oct. 1]!”

The Mary Moore Gallery was next to the Cheese Shop on Avenida de la Playa. It 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,” MacLaren said.

MacLaren 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 traveling throughout Europe with her family. “My mom is most herself when she is painting, and she always has been, so she wanted to paint everywhere we traveled,” said Little, a La Jolla High School graduate.

Now, in her retirement, MacLaren paints watercolors and flower scenes.

“Paintings of flowers last forever, and it’s hard to find something you can do in a nightgown,” MacLaren 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.” ◆