March 29, 2001


Subject: [AztlanNet] Dr. R's Query
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 00:02:19 -0800
From: JoAnn <>
To: AztlanNet/Mental Menudo <>

Am I wrong? asks Dr. Romero.

Well, yes, I believe you certainly are.

Art can, in fact, deal with any subject. Even the most horrendous.

To do so is not to celebrate depravity -- yes, there is such a thing -- but to honestly address what exists in this world. Artists who dealt with the topic of AIDS were roundly condemned in the late 1980s because some of their art attacked political and religious leaders. Yes, it was "offensive." Yet it furthered the dialogue about this disease and the responsibility of all to know and understand it in ways that any number of official medical reports could never do.

Artists have dealt with the atrocities of war, depicting rapes, maiming, mass deaths, abuse of children and, in so doing, identified them as subjects that could be addressed, not swept under the rug. And yes, those images have been offensive. Some of the art will survive over the ages and some will not. Yet it can be an essential part of the current intellectual, political and emotional debates of our culture.

You will not want this art hanging above your sofa, but surely it deserves to be seen in museums, galleries and colleges, at least. I recently saw part of the "Made in California" exhibit that was here in Sacra, and, would you believe, that dismembered limbs were depicted -- the arms of farm workers packaged like a meat product. A shocking but telling perspective.

To treat the Virgin of Guadalupe as an icon to be examined, criticized or even ridiculed surely offends some, but no more than that same treatment of the U.S. Flag, for example.

And sometimes, even if shocking, this is an enlightening experience for the viewer or listener of the shock art. Surely art, if original, will question assumptions.

Also, don't forget that bestiality as a topic has been treated, sometimes literally, sometimes symbolically by Renaissance artists depicting the Greek and Roman Myths.

If you believe that art -- literary, visual, performing -- is only to revere what is already deified, and perhaps reified, then yes, you will have a whole laundry list of topics that are "untouchable," except by reverence.

But if you believe in the free exchange of ideas, you will not want to suppress that exchange. [Can you imagine the current culture without Guillermo Gomez Pena?] You will tolerate, even if you do not embrace, such challenges, whether framed as ridicule or irony or, for some artists, obscenity. In any case, suppressing a topic often causes it to fester and become even more toxic, I believe.

With respect,
JoAnn Anglin


Subject: Virgen
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 08:20:59 -0700
From: "David Fitelson" <>
To: <>
CC: <>, "Peter Simonson" <>

Dear Editor

Would you please ask your reporter Ann Constable to correct  her  repeated, erroneous and inflammatory allegation that Alma Lopez's image of the Virgin in the current exhibition at the International Museum of Folk Art  is "bikini clad." The artist herself describes her subject as "a strong Virgen dressed in roses."  Moreover, it is time for Ms. Constable to learn what a bikini is, and what it is not. The contour and design of the Virgin's adornment  clearly parallels the modest swimsuits worn by such Godesses as the late Rita Hayworth, years before anyone  heard of Bikini atoll in the Pacific, let alone the abbreviated bathing costume that was to be given its name.

Thank you so much.

David Fitelson


Subject: Alma Lopez: Please read!
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 10:31:17 EST

Dr. Joyce Ice, Director
Dr. Tey Marianna Nunn, Curator of Contemporary Hispano/Latino Collections

Dr. Ice and Dr. Nunn:

I am writing this letter in support for the artist Alma Lopez.

 I am devastated that her work is seen as threatening and "sacrilegious" and that Jose Villegas, a fellow Latino, started the movement to remove her exhibit.

I am a Chicana, born in Mexico and raised in East Los Angeles.  I grew up with powerful images of La Virgen de Guadalupe in my household.  My household continues to be Catholic.  When I was growing up I felt excluded from the Catholic Church and very afraid of all the things it said about women.  I was particularly angry about the madonna/whore dichotomy and felt that these were my only options as a woman.  It was often that I avoided mass altogether, because I felt that members weren't there to pray for me and Latinas in general.

However, it wasn't until I developed a personal relationship with La Virgen de Guadalupe, that I felt like I was a part of the church. This is something that I did and it was a very individual process. Seeing a similarity between La Virgen and me made a world of a difference, being that she is powerful and female and brown.  This meant the world to me.

I have studied Alma's art and I see no wrong in what she has done to express her love of the Virgen.  As a fellow artist, a writer, I have often personalized my writing to include conversations with Cancer (since I'm a cancer-survivor), with my Fat (since I, like most women, have body image issues), and with God (especially during my angrier times, when I had to have surgery and radiation due to my cancer.)

Allowing this dialogue in my work was not only therapeutic, but also let me express my relationship with these inanimate objects.  I'm not calling the Virgen an object, but what I'm saying is that as artists we have the right to express ourselves and to share with others our art.  

By banning Alma's art work, you're stripping her right as an artist, but also, you're forcing her to express her love in the way YOU see fit. Or the Church sees fit. Historically Latina women have been discouraged to take part in the Church, and Alma's art is merely trying to narrow that gap.  She is trying to show that we can very well have a relationship with La Virgen and be a part of a Church that hasn't in the past included the brown woman's
voice. I urge you to keep this in mind.  I think that young Latina women need to see
themselves as powerful and as bright lights.  We are, also, made in the image of God.  If protesters can't see that, then that's exactly why we need this exhibit, so that we can encourage dialogue and further open that
communication gap.  

Thank you for reading my comments,
Nancy Loredo


Subject: I hope you're well
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 11:06:34 -0500
From: "Dane Pollei" <>
To: <>

J. Edson Way III
Cultural Affairs Officer
State of New Mexico

Dear Ed,

I write now for two reasons. I recently learned of the controversy surrounding the Alma Lopez artwork at the MOIFA. I wish you the best of luck in dealing with this affair, and I hope the work will remain on display. The issue is not so much about censorship, as it is our ability to have a civil dialogue, and respect for the deep personal meaning inherent in an artists' work. Having been a politician for a brief period in my career, I learned that extremists come in many forms. And while their intentions are often honorable, their actions should not be tolerated. I do wish you the best of luck. I am sure that in the scheme of things this controversy is small. Often it is the small things that make the world beautiful. I am not a scholar of Chicana art, yet I still found the image striking.

My second reason for writing is that I do not believe I ever properly thanked you. I have wanted to work in a museum ever since I was a child. Of the schools I could have attended; Northwestern, Marquette, or the University of North Carolina, I picked Beloit. I had never heard of the school until I received a brochure that had a picture of the Logan. I still vividly remember the tour you gave me of the museum and the collections. I can still see the handle-bar mustache, the ear ring and the pink oxford shirt you wore. More than that, I recall your enthusiasm and genuine kindness. Years later, I realized how special and rare it was for someone in high school to receive that much time from a faculty member.
Chance made you my advisor as a freshman and I will never forget the kindness you and Jenny and the kids showed us. You opened your house and your hearts. I still remember the joy many of us had when you created the museum studies program as well as our sadness when you left for greener pastures in New Mexico.

I have had much success in my career. My beginnings in this field were based on what I learned at Beloit--what I learned in large part from you. Recently, I ran across an old photograph of me, Wil Grewe and you outside the Logan. Wil and I had on leisure suites and were in our Lem and Lars Logan guise and dragged you outside to be in the photograph. Who else but you would have tolerated that much nuttiness from undergraduates?

Henry Moy told me about your recent health problems. I do hope they are behind you. Someday, I hope we can catch up with each other at a conference or reunion. Until then, give my regards to Jenny. I visited Beloit once when Sarah was a student. I think meeting her as an adult, rather than the little girl who showed us your farm, was the first time I felt old.

I wish you all the best, and thank you for all the small things you did for me and so many other students.

DaneDane F. Pollei
Director for Administration
John Michael Kohler Arts Center
Sheboygan, WI


Subject: Fwd: Alma Lopez
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 10:29:07 -0600
From: Dionne Espinoza <>

Hermana Lopez,

I am sending Chicana Power energy so that this censor-ship of your amazing work will end. The good news is that your work sparks dialogue--and makes an even large impact for raising consciousness about the kinds of policing that continues to take place around gender in the name of organized religion. Adelante, Mujer,


>Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 10:21:16 -0600
>From: Dionne Espinoza <>
>Subject: Alma Lopez
>To the Curator of the Museum of International Folk Art,
>I am writing this letter to voice my support for Chicana art and
>expression. It has come to my attention that the work of Ms. Alma Lopez
>has sparked controversy among those objecting to the use of the
>iconography of La Virgen de Guadalupe in her work.
>Her re-imagining of La Virgen is among those creative expressions of
>Chicanas and others who seek to revalue La Virgen as symbol of women's
>empowerment and indigenous cultural resistance. I am among those formerly
>practicing Catholics who have come to ask why La Virgen must be equated
>with women's subordination and patient suffering. Indeed, the
>brilliance of Ms. Lopez' re-imagining, in which a young Chicana proudly
>faces the viewer in a pachuca-like stance, with an interweaving of the
>stone of Coyoaxauqui strikes me as an apt way to highlight
>Chicana/Mexicana/mestiza history, hybrid spirituality, and the
>incorporation of the strong goddess as a way of rethinking our
>relationship to our own bodies and souls.
Dionne Espinoza
Assistant Professor
Women's Studies and Chicana/o Studies
University of Wisconsin at MadisonDionne Espinoza


Subject: Cyber Arte
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 09:53:27 -0700
From: curator <>

Dear Alma:

I'm the curator of the Wheelwright Museum, next door to the Museum of International Folk Art, where "Our Lady" is receiving so much attention. Yesterday afternoon I went to see Cyber Arte, and I think your work is wonderful. If the Virgin is at work in the world today, she recognizes your strength, intelligence, and humor.

I also grew up in L.A.When you were in El Serreno, I lived in Eagle Rock. I miss it a lot, and thank you for bringing that familiar energy to New Mexico.

Best wishes,
Cheri Falkenstien-Doyle
Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian


Subject: Alma Lopez
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 14:53:00 -0500
From: "Dane Pollei" <>
To: <>
CC: <>

Dr. Joyce Ice, Director
Museum of International Folk Art

Dear Dr. Ice,

I write this in support of the work of Alma Lopez currently part of an exhibition at MOIFA. I do not know the artist personally, and have only viewed pictures of the work in question. I am not a scholar, yet I can appreciate the beauty within the work.

What I find most disturbing is the willingness of many in our nation to place the civil right of free expression of visual artists as subordinate to authors or the general public. I am not a Roman Catholic, but I believe the artist's intent was not to denigrate Catholicism. Yet even if it does, why is this so intolerable? Are the protestors demanding the removal of every book perceived to have an anti-Catholic message from every public library in your state? I agree that visual messages are often more powerful than written ones. Yet isn't the basic right to that expression inherent in our society? Will we move down that slippery slope towards next burning books after all of the artwork that is perceived as degenerate is destroyed?

If someone looks at the artwork and loses their faith, I would argue that they never had any in the first place. I do wish you the best of luck and I understand the unfortunate effect politics can have on a situation like this.

A friend of mine once worked for Dr. Wilson, and Ed Way was my teacher and college advisor. I know them both to be honorable people. I hope you will all defend every artists right to freely express their views.

Good luck.
Dane F. Pollei
Director for Administration
John Michael Kohler Arts Center
Sheboygan, WI


Subject: Professor defends bold works of female artists
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 14:56:10 -0500

Professor defends bold works of female artists

By: Blake Driver

A recent controversy over an art piece on display in Santa Fe raises new questions concerning the artistic expression of certain Hispanic-American ideals. "Our Lady," a piece that depicts an almost nude Virgin Mary, is part of the Museum of International Folk Art's exhibit "CyberArte: Tradition Meets Technology," and has attracted the attention of conservatives from Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Santa Fe, who want the piece removed for its blasphemous nature.
In light of the incident, UNM Spanish professor Dr. Tey Diana Rebolledo presented the talk "Las Claravidentes: Chicana Artists and Writers, Gender, Ethnicity and Creativity" at the University Art Museum Wednesday as part of the Cultural Studies Colloquium. Her speech focused on the work of Chicana artists Marie Romero Cash and Alma López, creator of "Our Lady" as well as two Chicana writers, Pat Mora and Margarita Cota-Cárdenas.

"Although the image may be offensive to some, it is an important piece of art that honestly educates the public on Hispanic experiences in this country," Rebolledo states in her newsletter, which advocates against the piece's removal.

"We feel that although the offended parishioners have the right to request the removal of the piece, the Museum of New Mexico should not do so," Rebolledo said.
López's piece was not the only controversial work represented in Rebolledo's speech. Chicana boldness was at the heart of Rebolledo's message. A sculpture by Romero Cash depicted the Trinity transformed into a "quarteto" with the addition of the Virgin Mary to the group, and Cota-Cárdenas advises her readers to "busca tu nombre dentro de ti," or "look for your name inside yourself."

In her attempt to examine the truthfulness behind bold Chicana works, Rebolledo offered some perspective from her own experience as a woman in the Catholic Church.
"One of the things the Catholic Church told us in my time is that you shouldn't read the Bible, that it should be interpreted by the priest," Rebolledo said.

The Chicana artists and writers covered in Rebolledo's presentation were not afraid to tell their stories and give advice to others to hear their own voices.
As Lopez's artistic statement comes under scrutiny, the Museum of New Mexico Board of Regents will meet April 4 to discuss the fate of the piece. Rebolledo advises all who are concerned to contact local government offices and to "make your voices heard now."
Story Source: Daily Lobo


Subject: Re: Cyber Art April 4 10am
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 17:22:48 -0500
From: "Svetlana Mintcheva" <>
To: <>
References: 1

Dear Alma,

Please find attached the letter I sent to our National Coalition Against Censorship members and friends in New Mexico. I have also sent e-mails of support to the museum directors and the curator. If I can help in other ways do not hesitate to call.
I tried to find out more about the format of the meeting on Wednesday, but it appears that this will be decided at a meeting tomorrow. If you have more details as to participation, speakers, etc., please let me know.

Svetlana Mintcheva, Ph.D.
Arts Advocacy Project Coordinator
National Coalition Against Censorship
New York, NY 10001

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


March 29, 2001
Dear Friends,
I would like to alert you to a free expression controversy in your area and ask for your participation in the debate. Next Wednesdaythere will be a public meeting with the governing board of New Mexico's state museum system to consider whether the Museum of International Folk Art should remove an artwork that has offended some Roman Catholics. If you are able to go and join the discussion, please do so. The meeting will take place in the Museum of International Folk Art at 10AM, April 4, 2001 (706 Camino Lejo, about 2 miles southeast of Santa Fe's plaza, 505-476-1200, If you cannot make it to the meeting, please write to express your support of free expression to Museum of New Mexico Director, Thomas Wilson (The International Folk Art Museum is part of the Museum of New Mexico).
"Our Lady," the piece which some members of the Santa Fe Catholic community found offensive, is a digital photograph by Los Angeles artist Alma López representing the Virgin of Guadalupe. While familiar Guadalupe imagery is present - the rays of light, the cloak, the roses, the crescent moon, the angel - the virgin herself is represented by a photograph of a friend of the artist, hands on her hips and head raised, her robe open and revealing rose-laden undergarments. The angel below is represented by a topless woman, arms outstretched and butterfly wings extending from her shoulders and breasts. According to the artist, the idea was to portray the virgin as a strong and nurturing woman very much like the women in the community Alma López grew up in. You can see the work at The controversial piece is part of Cyber Arte: Where Tradition Meets Technology (thorough October 28, 2001), an exhibition featuring computer-inspired work by contemporary Hispana/Chicana/Latina artists, who combine elements traditionally defined as "folk" with current computer technology to create a new aesthetic.
According to press sources, Jose Villegas, a parishioner at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and a Santa Fe community activist, launched a protest against the museum and the work. Joined by Anthony Trujillo, the deacon of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, and Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan, Villegas is fighting to have the work taken down. So far museum officials have said they have no intention of pulling López's piece.
We support the position of the museum and the responsible way in which they are handling the controversy. We applaud their ability to find a way to both respond to protests by holding a public meeting and also to stand by the free expression rights of the artist by leaving her work on display.

It is important to realize that such incidents are never isolated. The attack on a work of art in one part of the country is soon followed by another attack elsewhere: an atmosphere is gradually setting in where respect for First Amendment values is giving way to an insistence that work disagreeing with received beliefs should simply disappear from view. And if one museum cedes to the pressure of a vocal group, that would only encourage more and more groups to call for the suppression of ideas they don’t like.
As you know, the issue of public institutions displaying art works that might be found offensive by certain representatives of religious groups was recently in the media spotlight in New York City. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s response to Renee Cox’s "Yo Mama’s Last Supper" prefigured, to an extent, the protests of Catholic officials in New Mexico. As a response to Giuliani’s reliance on the 1998 U.S. Supreme Court decision in NEA v. Finley, the Arts Advocacy Project prepared a short briefing paper explaining why Finley could not be used to justify censorship of disagreeable ideas and controversial viewpoints. I am enclosing this paper in the hope that it might help in the current debate in New Mexico.

Svetlana Mintcheva
Arts Advocacy Project Coordinator
Svetlana@ncac.orgAddress to write to:
Thomas Wilson, Director
Museum of New Mexico
P.O. Box 2087
Santa Fe, NM 87501
And please cc the following:
Joyce Ice, Ph.D.
Tey Marianna Nunn, Ph.D.
Curator of Contemporary Hispano and Latino collections
P.O. Box 2087
Santa fe, NM 87504

Dr. Edson Way
Cultural Affairs Officer
Office of Cultural Affairs
La Villa Rivera Building
228 E. Palace
Santa Fe, NM 87501
Alma Lopez
c/o Tongues/VIVA
1125 N. McCadden Place Suite 148
Los Angeles, CA 90038-1212

Subject: small note of encouragement, in case you needed it
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 16:25:25 -0600
From: "Jessica C. L. Nunn" <>
To: <>

Dear Ms. Lopez,

I just wanted to write you a note of support--I've been keeping track of the bizarre controversy over "Our Lady" in New Mexico. I'm not an art expert by any means, but I think your rendering of Guadalupe is beautiful. Playful and exploratory, yes, but disrespectful and trashy? Hardly. The people protesting MOIFA's showing of your piece aren't seeing the grace you've put into your Guadalupe; instead they're gawking at her flesh. How very sad.

Hang in there, because you're doing wonderful things.

-Jessica Nunn


Subject: "Our Lady"
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 15:26:39 -0800 (PST)
From: Alex Baez <>

Dear Alma:

I went to see your pieces and I must say it is very interesting! I was wondering if you have more of these imiges that involve "Our Lady od Guadalupe?

I would like to see them. Do you have them showing in Santa Fe as well?

Are you from Mexico?

I would love to learn more about yourself, since I am a curator of an art Gallery myself.

Could you send me your resume as well by email?

I look forwerd in hearing from you and I thank you in advance for your time.

Best regards!
Alex Baez


Subject: Re: Cyber Art
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 17:06:58 -0700
From: tey diana rebolledo <>

Dear Alma: Here is the letter I sent to the Archbishop today. Also, some very positive letters and a positive editorial appeared in the Albuquerque Tribune. Hope you are doing well. Oh, and I want to buy a print of the "Offensive painting" so let me know what it will cost and postage and start working! Un abrazo, Diana

701 Griegos Rd. NW
Albuquerque, NM 87107
March 27, 2001
Archbishop Michael Sheehen
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Dear Archbishop Sheehen:

I read your comments about the painting by Alma López in the paper today. I wonder if you have seen the exhibition and have read the statement by the artist where she states that the painting is part of her devotion to Our Lady.

I was raised in the Catholic Church in Las Vegas New Mexico and later New London, Connecticut where we were told not to read the Bible, books were banned, and we were even made to take a pledge not to see certain movies. When I was thirteen I was told by our parish priest that I would go to hell because I had been to the house of a Jewish friend. For some reason we were not to go into the houses of people who were not Catholic. Over the years, I am 63 now, I had hoped the Catholic Church had changed, had become more respectful and open. After all, it seems to me, what Christianity in all its best ideals teaches is: respect for the other, love, forgiveness.

The Church has not been respectful towards women and the challenges they face in contemporary times. It has given us role models of passive, demure virgins who look down. It has made us ashamed of our sexuality and independence. Young people struggle to find representations they can relate to in their search for spirituality. Certainly Alma Lopez's "Our Lady" is such a search and it is a beautiful and powerful representation. This creative representation is not trashing any Catholic symbol at all. Moreover if we look at centuries of traditional church art, it is filled with virgins who display parts of their bodies, in particular in the paintings of the lactating virgins.

In any event, it seems to me that the symbol of the Virgin of Guadalupe has moved from the sacred (where it is safely housed in churches) into the public. Mexico made her its national symbol, dressing her in white, green and red, the Farmworkers Union put her on a banner. In Mexico on the 12 of December people dress their children up as Juan Diego and women dress as La Virgen. She has moved into the economic realm also, you can find her on mouse pads, t-shirts, lowriders, pop-up books, and as advertisement for commercial products. Even the members of the Guadalupe parish wear t-shirts with the image on it. She has moved into popular culture.

With such unfortunate statements as yours it is no wonder that intelligent people who would like to think and judge for themselves are moving away from the Catholic Church, as are young people. I don't think the church can afford to continue to be so limited and narrow-minded about change and to continue to censor the world, particularly a world that is striving to find meaning in a misogynist system. Moreover I find it truly striking that people who profess to be Christians use threatening language (as has been used towards the artist and the museum), and have displayed incredible bigotry (callers have been told that if they are Jewish or Protestant they cannot make their opinion known).

As an educator and I hope someone that knows something about the importance of the Catholic faith in the creative representation of Chicana/o artists and writers, I would be happy to meet with you or to send you information about these positive transformations that are taking place. And I would hope that you would reconsider your harsh statements.


Dr. Tey Diana Rebolledo
Regents' Professor of Spanish/
Chicano Literature
The University of New Mexico


Subject: Virgin of Guadalupe
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 20:36:59 -0700
From: "R & M Stoddard" <>
To: <>

I saw the exhibit at the Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe.  I was not at all offended.  Don't let the bigots get you down.
Mary Ann Stoddard