Leo Tanguma is the man behind the two murals in the “Great Hall” terminal at DIA, “The Children of the World Dream of Peace” and “In Peace and Harmony with Nature.” Both the murals are split into two large panels, one set at 12ft x15ft, the other set at 12ft x 28ft, that span entire walls near the baggage claims, creating quite a jarring experience for traveler who don’t expect things like dead children and genocidal military men to be featured in a public airport.
Many of the conspiracy theorists who have posted about DIA have operated with the understanding that Tanguma is a Mayan (hence the 2012 connection) that did these murals were the only thing he painted before going underground. But people living in Denver, particularly in the west side Latino neighborhoods, are quite familiar with Tanguma’s other works. He was born and raised in a small town in Texas before establishing himself as a muralist in Dallas. After his warehouse studio was mysteriously burned down, he moved to Denver and began doing paintings here on churches and community recreation centers.
He earned the commission for the murals at DIA in the early 90s while the airport was being built and was helped by art students and people from the community. In 1996, he was visited by Alex Christopher while she was in Denver researching for her book Pandora’s Box II, which features lengthy chapters on DIA and deconstructs Tanguma’s airport murals. It wasn’t until the early 2000’s, however,with the age of the Internet, that public speculation to the murals’ meaning really hit a feavered pitch. It’s hard to think of a work of contemporary art that has been more analysed and cited by the the various global conspiracy theory movements than the DIA murals. The 9-11 Truth thinkers, anti-mason folk, UFO hunters, 2012 followers, New Age spiritualists, ultra-conservative Christians, Chemtrail people, anarchists, anti-government ideologues, all see the DIA paintings as something of an oracle that must be interpreted to understand future events. Books, documentaries, radio programs and hundreds of Internet sites — all focused on these murals.
Why, then, have Tangumas other paintings largely been ignored by this world? The simple answer: they were never on the Internet. Until recently there was no way to contact Tanguma over the Internet, leading to the misconception that he had “been disappeared” or was some kind of recluse. Actually he was living in Arvada, Colorado, in a nice suburban home with his wife and grown daughter’s family. Late last year, Tanguma launched his own website with dozens of pictures of his full body of work. What will people make of these? Will they find secrets and hidden meaning in his other paintings? Check more of them out after the jump.