March 27, 2001

Subject: In Support of Cyber Arte
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2001 09:29:17 -0800
From: "Claudia Rodriguez" <>

Dear Mr. Wilson

I write today on behalf of Tongues- a project of VIVA (Los Angeles based non-profit organization) to commend the Museum of International Folk Art for taking a stand against the tired views and misguided organizing efforts of el Señor Villegas who is opposed to the free artistic expressions of Ms. Alma Lopez.

As a non-profit collective of Queer Latinas organizing towards building
a movement that inspires new conceptualizations of identity, motivates cross collaborations, provides an outlet, and addresses social issues across the LGBT and Latina/o communities, Tongues greatly encourages the development of a community consciousness through educational campaigns and creative expressions that heighten dialogue on the dynamics of race, class and gender. It is inspiring to see that Alma Lopez is not only making great contributions to the artistic community with her honest, and personal representations but she is also challenging Chicanos/Latinos religious or irreligious by proposing new ways of looking at religious icons.

Is it possible that we can all have a personal relationship and our own representation of our favorite Santo? Apparently Señor Villegas does not think so. He accuses Ms. Lopez of having produced blasphemous images and of considering herself above the mores of her community and the Catholic religion. But what el Señor Villegas is doing; falsely accusing this artist, misunderstanding her ideas and presenting his own religious beliefs as more legitimate that hers is more detrimental to "our community," because his efforts will only stifle our communities ability to process, deconstruct and articulate new ideas.

Art is a means of communication that can engage people on emotional and aesthetic levels. Whether it is, poetry, creative writing, theater, film or digital art as is the case in this matter, art reflects the desire for communities to articulate the need for self-identification and pride.

Art has allotted cultural and political agency for marginalized communities. It reflects the culture and consciousness shared by a people and documents the changing consciousness of an individual, group, or larger movement. We can only hope that Mr. Villegas will soon put an end to his misinformed demonstrations and realize that while no artist can realistically represent the religious/moral/social views of "the community," he can at least pause for a moment, and enjoy the diverse views that Ms. Lopez is sharing with the community of New Mexico.

Tongues (a project of VIVA)


Subject: support for Alma Lopez
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2001 10:43:37 -0700
From: Theresa Delgadillo <>

March 27, 2001

Tey Marianna Nunn
Curator of Contemporary Hispano and Latino Collections
Museum of International Folk Art

Dear Ms. Nunn:

I am writing in support of your museum's decision to exhibit the work of Alma Lopez, especially her piece "Our Lady."  I hope that your museum will remain firm in making this important artwork visible and accessible to your patrons despite the protests of some.

As a scholar of Chicana feminist representations of religion and spirituality, I am especially pleased that Lopez' work continues to find wider audiences; I think it is evidence of the appeal of her very spiritual art as well as the proliferation of heterogeneous Chicana/o and Mexicana/o communities in the U.S.  In the course of my work it has not been uncommon to encounter the discomfort of students and communities initially unfamiliar with Chicana feminist revisions of religious figures.  In fact this was the subject of discussion at a recent slide show and lecture that I gave here in Tucson titled "Linking Race, Sex, and Spirit: Chicana Negotiations of Catholicism."  These kinds of discussions are invaluable opportunities to explore the spiritual dimensions of Chicana art, Chicana feminism, the multiplicity and hybridity of Chicana/o communities, and the variety of religious expression that has historically marked our communities.  Whenever this has come up in lectures or classrooms, I inevitably come away richer in my own knowledge from the exchange--but that dialogue would not have happened without either the willingness of participants to talk out the discomfort rather than silence each other or without the beautiful and provocative art that speaks of multiple experiences.

I commend you for embracing the opportunity to deepen understanding in these areas by including Lopez' work in the Museum of International Folk Art.  I  also applaud your decision to include such an incredibly talented and original artist in the exhibit!         

As you know, "Our Lady" was recently reproduced on the cover of Puro Teatro: A Latina Anthology, a text that myself and many others, including instructors in New Mexico, regularly assign for classroom use; as such, this is not an image that can be made to disappear.  Instead, I suspect that "Our Lady" and Lopez' work generally will become even more well know in years to come in the fields of Art History, Chicana/o Studies, Religious Studies and Women's Studies.

Sincerely,Theresa Delgadillo
Assistant Professor
Women's Studies
University of Arizona

Subject: Guadelupe
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2001 15:01:05 -0500
From: "Svetlana Mintcheva" <>
To: <>

Dear Alma Lopez-
I heard about the controversy around your painting at the Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe. I would like to learn more about it and intervene in the discussion in support of your right to express your unique vision.
Svetlana Mintcheva, Ph.D.
Arts Advocacy Project Coordinator
National Coalition Against Censorship

The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) is an alliance of 50 national non-profit organizations, including religious, educational, professional, artistic, labor, and civil rights groups, committed to defending freedom of thought, inquiry, and expression.  For more information about NCAC, visit us on-line at


Subject: Your Painting
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2001 14:30:13 -0600
From: "Amy Rawls" <>
To: <>Hello Alma,

I am from Albuquerque, NM and would like to commend you on your painting. Artists are never appreciated for their art just criticized. Many famous artists never got the respect they deserved. People never take the time to stand back and take a look at what an artist is trying to portray, they just assume at first glance that they don't like it or that it is offending. When really if they used the time they use to complain they may see the same vision that you see in your paintings. I don't understand how someone can be so negative of someone else's right of free expression. I am not Catholic and do not understand the significance of the Lady of Guadalupe but I have studied art and do understand the meaning, freedom and respect every artist deserves. As I looked at your painting I saw a powerful woman one who should be honored in a museum or hanging on a church wall for who she is and not what she is wearing.
Please do not let others affect your art that you have painted from your heart. Your an artist! Maybe one day all artists will be treated with the same respect as others are.
Keep your heart painting the way it is!!!
Thank You,
Amy Rawls


Subject: Re: Cyber Arte - Please help
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2001 13:00:01 -0800
From: "Ruben Guevara" <>
To: <>
References: 1

Alma, I am appalled to hear about the myopic response you are receiving re your work. You have my total support.

-Ruben Guevara


Subject: Cyber Arte--YOU ROCK!!!!
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2001 14:56:38 -0700
From: "Ev-Ra, Princess o' Power" <>

Greetings-- I'm a friend of Tey Marianna Nunn, who curated the Cyber Arte exhibit at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, NM.

I loved the Virgen piece, so nanny nanny boo boo to everyone who's having a fit over it. WHATEVER. Hope you're holding up okay with all the negative crap swirling around it. I've already e-mailed my support to the NM gov., my state reps/senators AND sent a support letter to the local Albuquerque Journal (which, interestingly, is not printing any letters of support. hmmmm.) Buncha cranky-ass over-sensitive unappreciative critics, I say.

Ah, well.
Ev Schlatter
Albuquerque NM


Subject: Re: response to the Virgen
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2001 16:20:48 -0800
From: Serg Hernandez <>
Organization: Indian Oak Graphics
References: 1 , 2

Alma..I wish you the best...hang in just so happens that I'm working on a "Virgen" myself.....I'm trying to show the obvious relationship between Tonantzin the Aztec goddess and LA Virgen......Wish me luck!......Serg


Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2001 17:47:48 -0700
From: "Helen Lopez" <>
To: <>, <>

Dear Alma, I am a friend of Roberta Orona. And I am a lawyer in Taos.
First - I LOVE YOUR VIRGEN IMAGE!!!! in caps so you know this is from a friend. You must be getting hate mail. I already mailed letters to the museum and the archbishop in your support and if you send me your address, i will send you copies. Let me know when you will be in Santa Fe to speak and i will do my best to be there and to get some people out. I urge you to call Bernadette Rodriguez. She is a politically active Chicana artist, who can get some people out for you. I will email her as well but she is terrible about checking her email. My guess is that you are already contacting chicana/o artists but if you are not - get on it and let me know what i can do.

Helen Laura Lopez


Subject: Our lady of Guadalupe @ Santa Fe museum
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2001 19:57:28 -0500
From:,, NM <>

Alma Lopez,

Getting critisizm for your depiction of Our lady of Guadalupe in a bikini? Good! the lady is idolatry to begin with, any Christ centered Christian who reads and studies the Bible knows that. You are a Catholic, but obviously not a Christian. God tells his people to tear down the idols in their lives. Putting the lady in a bikini is tearing down an idol. Go for it!! I am a born again Christian, and with or without a bikini I spit on any image of Our lady of Guadalupe, knowing full well I do so to an Idol and with Gods full authority backing me up


Subject: Our Lady
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2001 20:16:35 -0600
From: Reannon Peterson <>

To Whom It May Concern,

Please do not remove Alma Lopez's work from your exhibit. I think the main work in question, "Our Lady" is a beautiful testament to her culture and religious beliefs. I have just recently begun to learn about Mexicano/a and Chicano/a culture, and I feel other Americans who have not yet learned about these cultures should have the opportunity to see artwork by gifted Chicanas like Alma. Even as a non-Catholic white woman I am inspired and moved by her work.

You have the right to exhibit whatever you choose, and should not be swayed by a few angry people. Art is intended to evoke emotions in people, including anger and frustration. If it didn't stir up people's emotions, it wouldn't be real art. This reaction is a testament to the impact Alma's work has and the opportunity your museum has to challenge norms and stimulate conversation. Please don't limit our ability to obtain knowledge and create understanding about the incredible diversity in the world.

Thank you for your time.

Reannon M. Peterson
Madison, WI


Subject: Re: Cyber Arte Exhibition
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2001 20:42:49 -0700
From: tey diana rebolledo <>

Censorship is Alive and Well in New Mexico

The Archbishop of New Mexico says the beautiful portrait of Our Lady by artist Alma López “trashes” the Virgin. Some Catholics and the Archbishop ask that the painting in the show “CyberArte: Where Technology Meets Tradition” at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe be taken down because it is disrespectful. Interesting to note is the fact that many of the protesters have not seen the show which focuses on four Chicana artists who use contemporary technology to create beautiful works of art, and many protesters confess that they haven’t been to the Museum in years, if at all.

Neither do they mention the fact that in the artist statement Alma López says that she is a devoted Catholic trying to pay homage to our lady by representing her as a beautiful and powerful figure. It seems that the fact that the young woman standing in the resplendor of the Virgin is looking straight at the viewer instead of demurely down, and that she is dressed in a floral (multi- colored roses) 1940s bathing suit (not a bikini as proclaimed by the press) is disrespectful. Undressing the Virgin, the protesters claim, is an affront to their Catholic faith.

Have they forgotten all those lactating Virgins proffering breasts to the Christ child in hundreds of traditional Catholic church art pieces? The angel holding up the figure is bare breasted. Shame! Have they forgotten all the little angels flying around in traditional paintings with their male organs showing! And then there is the black crescent moon, witchery they cry, brujería! If one looks at representations of the Virgin from colonial times to contemporary the moons are almost always black. No witchery here, just a dark moon. The Press (The Albuquerque Journal) prints inflammatory editorials, lopsided news articles, and negative letters to the editor. The reasoned, positive letters never appear. And it’s a good thing too about the Virgin’s appearance, one letter says, she got rid of all those barbaric Aztecs.

Constituents supporting the painting when calling to the office of the State Senator in Santa Fe are told that they are not taking supportive calls only the negative ones, they should call the Museum. Callers to Guadalupe Parish Church which initiated the protest are told that if they are Jewish or Protestant they cannot weigh in on the matter. Threatening language is used in an e-mail to the artist (“we will take care of you”) and the rest of us are told that we will go to hell. A very Christian attitude I would say. They also call for the jobs and the livelihood of the Director of the Museum and the Curator of the Museum. Museums as well as universities are public institutions, and as such they have a responsibility to educate. Educating means not always maintaining tradition, but also showing change and transformation. It means trying to show all sides. Those of us in Chicano/a literature and other creative endeavors know the importance of the Catholic faith and the church in our lives. This has sometimes been positive and sometimes not. For young women, the Church has often been a repressive force and not a transforming one. As Sandra Cisneros, Denise Chávez, Demetria Martínez and other writers have shown us, women have suffered because they are supposed to be passive, long suffering and patient, even in the face of violence. Writers and artists struggle to find their spirituality and a way to relate to the church. One way they do this is by imbuing the Virgin of Guadalupe with power and independence. Thus Yolanda López’s depictions of the Virgin in tennis shoes, Esther Hernández ‘s Virgin as a karate fighter, and other images. In Sandra Cisneros’ short story “Little Miracles, Kept Promises,” the narrator tells us that she was never able to love the Virgin because of the suffering of her mother and grandmother. It was not until she understood that the power of Tonantzin was behind the Virgin was she
able to embrace her.

Moreover, the image of the Virgin has moved from the sacred, where it is stored securely in churches, into the public arena. Mexico made her its national symbol, dressing her in white, green and red. The Farmworkers Union put her on their banner. In Mexico on the 12 of December parents dress their children as Juan Diego and mothers as Guadalupe. She has moved into the economic realm also: you can find her on mouse pads, -t-shirts, lowriders, children’s pop- up books and as advertisement for commercial products. Even the members of the Guadalupe Parish in Santa Fe wear t-shirts with the image on it. She has moved into popular culture.

A meeting is scheduled with the Board of Regents of the Museum to see if the painting will be removed. I believe that those who find the image disrespectful have the right to protest, I do not believe they have the right to prevent us from making up our own minds.

I do not speak for the University of New Mexico, but I do speak for myself and many of my colleagues. Removing the painting is censorship, and an affront to freedom of thinking and creativity. The Museum is a public institution paid for by all taxpayers’ money.

Watch out New Mexico: The Taliban, the Inquisition is coming.

Dr. Tey Diana
Professor of
Spanish/Chicano Literature