Whispers From the Mesa

Artist: Fernando Padilla, Jr.

Whispers From the Mesa illustrates the story of a young man who has gone on a quest to find his purpose and path in life. He journeyed to the top of the mesa in search of answers, but was disappointed to find only silence. After descending, a sudden breeze caught his attention and he heard the words, “Look for It” in a loud whisper. He looked around, but saw only his dog.

He thought about the words he heard, because it was exactly what he had come to do: look for the way, the signs, the affirmation. Then he remembered something his late father told him: “When you are on the hunt and you are having trouble finding your prey, stop…sit down…and be still….When you are still long enough, the world will begin to move around you, you will see and hear things you could not otherwise, you will become aware of even the minutest of movements, then you have discovered a truth, of finding things that are there which you could not find before.”

The young man dismounted to sit on a rock. He was so still and quiet that insects crawled over his feet. Then he noticed scratches on the underside of a large black lava rock. Exploring more, he discovered petroglyphs from ages past carved into stone. He then understood that he had been chosen to interpret these historic stories of his people, to be the faithful messenger of truths long held sacred, but also long forgotten. His heart was relieved, his darkness passed and his spirit soared, alive with purpose.

Fernando Padilla began drawing before kindergarten, but didn’t pursue his art seriously until a back injury kept him from working as a truck driver. That was in 1987, since then he has exhibited his work extensively throughout Oklahoma and the Southwest. One of his largest commissions came in 1993, when he was selected to do part of a large mural, Spirit of the People, for the Denver airport. The piece depicts the history of Colorado from ancient times to the present through the Native perspective. Padilla’s section focuses on an Anasazi cliff dwelling.

Padilla’s art reflects his childhood, growing up in Arizona and New Mexico. His father was from San Felipe Pueblo and his mother is Navajo. Padilla moved to Bethany, Oklahoma, in the early 1980s to study religion and music at what is now Southern Nazarene University. He recently found a way to incorporate his artistic gifts with his ministry through Art in Worship. During church services he paints a mural illustrating the theme of the sermon.

Padilla has participated in shows including Red Earth in Oklahoma City, the Santa Fe Indian Market, and the Tulsa Indian Art Market. His work has also been exhibited at the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History and the Eitlejorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis, Indiana. Whispers from the Mesa was purchased for the Oklahoma Judicial Center Collection.