On November 16, 2023, Pawsibilities Unleashed: A Pet Portrait Exhibition debuted in The Walt Disney Family Museum’s Theater and Lower Lobby Galleries. Presented concurrently with our special exhibition, Disney Cats & Dogs, this unique collection of artworks features portraits by local Bay Area and Disney-related artists, showcasing the profound impact animal companions have on their creative expression. The talented staff at The Walt Disney Family Museum was asked to contribute artwork that represented their animal companions.
Walt Disney loved, respected, and appreciated animals from a very young age and found many ways to incorporate them into his films, television shows, and other projects throughout his lifetime. Walt once said, “Sometimes we recognize ourselves in animals. And that’s what makes them so interesting.” This sentiment rings true for the talented artists and their animal-inspired artworks featured in Pawsibilities Unleashed.
Pawsibilities Unleashed: A Pet Portrait Exhibition is currently on view in the museum’s Theater Gallery and Lower Lobby through March 2024, and is open free to the public.
Charlotte Weller, Backyard, 2023
"I wanted to find a way to illustrate my family’s current dog July (the tri-colored dog adorned in her favorite bandana), while also honoring all the other pets I grew up with. The pets behind July—Po the parrotlet, Mocha the guinea pig, and Patches our first family dog—are all colored in blue to indicate that they’ve past on. I think everyone who’s had a pet has had to experience both the absolute joy of bringing them home, and the heavy heartbreak of when that pet passes on. This was my way of showing that their presence and memory will never go away, they live among the greenery and fresh flowers that we laid them to rest in our backyard."
—Charlotte Weller, Studio Educator
Daniel Mendoza, Lyla in Flowers, 2023
Jenna L’Italien-Uppal, Sweet Dreams Debbie, 2023
"This is a portrait of my dog Debbie. She is a rescue dog that we adopted in 2020 and has been a delightful addition to our household. The piece is based on a photo I took of Debbie, where she looked like she was having a sweet happy dream because of the smile on her face. It was created using the procreate app for iPad."
—Jenna L’Italien-Uppal, School Assistant
Maya Colbert, Bass Reeves, 2023
I have created a mosaic of my cat, Bass Reeves, using seed beads of various colors.
Bass the cat’s human namesake was a deputy U.S. Marshall in the 19th and early 20th centuries. He was born a slave in Arkansas before escaping to Oklahoma where he became one of the first Black deputy U.S. Marshalls west of the Mississippi and is often said to be the inspiration for the Lone Ranger.
My three times great grandfather, Bill Colbert, was also a Black deputy U.S. Marshall in Oklahoma during this time and family legend says he and Bass worked together directly.
In any case, Bass the cat is a reminder of this rich history.
—Maya Colbert, Public Programs Coordinator
Tracie Timmer, Ollie and Fred, 2023
We added a new addition to the family this year with our black cat Ollie after the sad passing of one of our two cats last year. We hoped our remaining cat, Fred (18 years old), would take to Ollie as he seemed lonely after his brother Lunchbox passed. Unfortunately, as you can perhaps tell from my gouache painting, this has not been the case! I did my best to capture the tense, and at-times comical kitty animosity between them that we hope eventually will fade in the coming year when they finally accept that they are stuck with each other, for better or for worse.
—Tracie Timmer, co-curator of Pawsibilities Unleashed: A Pet Portrait Exhibition, Public Programs Manager
Neyda Cortes, Bucky Boy, 2020; courtesy of Theresa Von Dohlen
Sarah Mahnke Baum, Plush Cat, 2023
I have created a small plush cat out of printed cotton with an embroidered face. The cotton quilting fabric is representative of a cat’s calico coat, but the florals and stripes also bring about a feeling of coziness. Perhaps reminiscent of an old quilt or a grandparent’s house.
—Sarah Mahnke Baum, Gallery Associate