The murals, painted by Leo Tanguma, are explained very clearly on his web sight. If you take the time to navigate there, you will see he has been painting like this from the get go.
[link to www.leotanguma.com
1993 - 1995In Peace and Harmony With Nature
Commissioned by and on permanent exhibit at Denver International Airport
This is one of two sets of murals (four total)
Two smaller at 12 ft. x 15 ft. w
Two larger at and 12 ft. x 28 ft. w.Smaller mural – The Present State of the Environment
Humanity, represented by multi-racial children, is shocked and saddened at finding our natural world in a trampled and abused state. Surrounding the youthful group are endangered or extinct wildlife species. The bewildered children view the Snow Leopard, said to be the most beautiful of the large cats, laid out lifeless before them displaying its exquisite fur and colors. To the left, a young girl gazes at a Great Auk in a display case, a vanished species made extinct in 1844. On the right front, a young boy touches a display case containing the last of the Passenger Pigeons, a species existing in immense numbers throughout the Eastern U.S., and finally extinguished in 1914. Shown also are a harpooned Gray Whale, a Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle enmeshed in a fishing net, and a wall mounted buffalo head. Fluttering over the central scene, is an agitated Quetzal bird, with parts of a display case ominously surrounding it, as if foretelling its extinction.
Behind these central images, a fire rages, consuming a rainforest, while in the foreground we see endangered plant life, such as the Holy Ghost Orchid, from Panama, the Flower of the Gods, South Africa and others. In the immediate foreground are three concrete coffins, each containing a young girl clutching cultural articles. These three girls symbolize our own humanity as victims of our self destruction, notably through war, slavery, genocide, exploitation and violence of all kind.
Larger mural – A Hopeful Future in which Humanity Rehabilitates the Environment
On this mural, I depict humanity, represented by children of the world arrayed in national or folkloric costumes. They move from both ends towards the center, and are shown smiling optimistically as they strive to rehabilitate our natural environment. On the background to this jubilant procession, are depicted various temperate zones of our planet beginning, on the extreme left with the ocean, temperate forests, frigid, tropical rainforest, and desert.
These “zones” are pictorially described with relevant geographical features, as well as wildlife indigenous to those regions. For example, the Quetzal bird signifies tropical rain or cloud forests, while the Snow Leopard is representative of frigid mountainous environments. Moreover, these different zones are shown as robust and healthy, as are the various wildlife species depicted. This portrayal is confluent with the ideal of a rehabilitated natural environment resplendent in all its beauty.
The elated children, in the colorful and lively costumes of thirty-two nations, move happily to where a special and unique flowering plant is about to be placed in the soil. This flower, its radiating leaves reflecting all the colors of the rainbow, reveal within its folds the configuration of a small white dove (reminiscent of the Holy Ghost Orchid). With this image, I sought to symbolize a new appreciation of our environment as a spiritual as well as a physical entity, a precious and delicate domain entrusted to our care.