A Thank You Letter to my Fashion Guardian Angel

The following is the contents of the email I just sent.

Dear [redacted],

Thank you so much for taking pity on me last night at Nordstrom Rack, and guiding me through the suit-selection process. I couldn’t have done it without you. Really. I’m afraid to think of what I would have looked like today had Maddy and I been left in charge. Can you believe I showed up with a red and black plaid tie, and looking for a suit to match?

I wanted to share a photo of how it all turned out. 

I had an amazing lunch at the exclusive Pacific-Union Club in San Francisco, and the suit got me right in the door. People even said hello thinking they should know me! My host was the grandson of SFB Morse of Pebble Beach fame. Morse hired my great-aunt Moira Wallace to paint a mural inside the ballroom of the Hotel Del Monte in Monterey in 1939. And I got to learn a lot about the life and people of that place and time.

Moira was an amazing artist during the Great Depression and World War II. But being a woman didn’t help her win prominent commissions despite her talents. Her most famous example of being runner up was in 1933 when she won a spot on the artist team painting the interior mural of Coit Tower. As the story goes in my family, she moved to San Francisco for the work but when she arrived, she found out the man in charge of the selection committee decided to take her spot and appoint her queen of that year’s society art ball as a consolation prize.

I learned this story as part of the research I’m doing on her body of work, and the work of her brother (my grandpa) and their dad, who grew up as writers and artists in Carmel in the 1910s and 20s. Hopefully someday it will lead to Moira’s work in a California fine art museum, maybe a book of some sort, perhaps a podcast! Or just a good story to tell at dinner parties. 

All the Best,
Matt

P.S. This is a mural sketch I’ve had hanging on my wall since my first apartment out of college. Moira submitted it to the Dept. of Justice Mural competition c. 1938, titled, “The Protection of the Child Through Child Labor Laws.”

She didn’t win. 

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