Multi-colored clouds soar overhead, sending a warning that something momentous or calamitous is about to happen. Standing vigil below are white-tailed deer with piercing stares, a Red-shouldered hawk perched on the buck’s haunches, making for an unlikely alliance. Scrawled in the ground cover beneath the Maximilian sunflowers and the Englemann’s thistle is the haunting message: “How rare and beautiful it truly is that we exist.”
There is a lot to absorb in Joshua West’s bigger-than-life mural “Selah” for the Trinity Trail gallery. Even the Hebrew word selah in the title, which comes from Psalms, commands the viewer to pause and think and reflect on the world and the art before them.
“We’re all stuck on this rock spinning around the sun and it’s a fragile place to be, so we need to take care of each other,” said West.
The stunning, colorful painting reflects West’s long journey to becoming an artist. The son of a saddle maker, West grew up in Center, Texas, and flirted with the idea of a career as an architect and a social worker before earning his Master’s in Fine Arts in Studio Arts at the University of North Texas. West’s real-life experiences add legitimacy to the images he makes.
In “Selah,” West said he wanted to paint something beautiful “but not a pretty empty thing like a vase of flowers.” Each native flora and fauna were picked carefully.
The thistle is included because it is colorful, hardy and represents Everyman. The yellow-breasted Meadowlark is there because it “makes this beautiful noise” no matter whether it is flying or perched.
The Scissor-tailed flycatcher is depicted because this “crazily” territorial bird will chase off other, larger birds despite its diminutive size. “It is small but fierce,” West said.
The mammoth bones on the structure’s base, located closer to the river, are hints of our ancient past and, again, just how delicate the balance of life can be.
““You can be here and not be here,” West said. “We should be taking care of our space because it is what is taking care of us and keeping us all alive. And it’s extremely fragile.”