A few weeks ago, it was my pleasure to have filmmaker Pamela Tom in the Lounge to talk about her documentary Tyrus, the story of Chinese-American artist and Disney Legend Tyrus Wong. Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to finally see Tyrus on the big screen. The film opened CAAMFest, an annual film festival in the San Francisco Bay Area that supports and celebrates Asian art and culture.
It was a delightful evening, with the screening held at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre. It was followed by a gala at the Asian Art Museum. On display at the event was an 80-year old watercolor masterpiece by Tyrus Wong called "Chinese Jesus." It depicts an ethereal Christ-like figure floating in a partially clouded sky. For decades, the painting was thought to have been lost, only to be rediscovered a few years ago stashed away in a San Francisco church. The painting came full circle on March 9, when, during a ceremony designating the day as “Tyrus Wong Day” in San Francisco, Tyrus Wong, at 105-years old, signed the painting.
Last Friday, since I was in the neighborhood, I dropped by the Walt Disney Family Museum and spent time with Michael Labrie, the museum’s director of collections. In 2013, Michael curated Water to Paper, Paint to Sky an exhibition of Tyrus Wong’s work. In our conversation, Michael and I talked about Tyrus, as well as a contemporary of Tyrus’s at Disney, Mel Shaw. Mel is the subject of a current retrospective at the Museum, Mel Shaw: An Animator on Horseback.
After talking with Michael, imagine my surprise to run into none other than Tyrus Wong at the Museum. He was the guest of honor at a member event later that evening, but he had arrived early to take in the Mel Shaw exhibition. We only chatted briefly, but as always, Tyrus was charming, good humored and an absolute pleasure to talk with.
CAAMFest runs through March 20, so if you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area this week, I highly recommend seeing one of the many fascinating films screening during the festival. In fact, the Walt Disney Family Museum, in celebration of Tyrus Wong, is showing Bambi this Saturday and Sunday. Plus, you can catch an encore showing of Tyrus at the New Parkway Theater in Oakland also on Sunday. For times and ticket information, visit caamfest.com/2016/schedule.