April 16, 2001

Subject: Our Lady
Date: Mon, 16 Apr 2001 01:38:28 -0000
From: "Rachel Gonzalez" <rachel_gonzalez@hotmail.com>
To: almalopez@earthlink.net, davalos@csusm.edu
CC: TMNunn@mofia.org

Dear Ms. Lopez,

I am writing to express my support and sincere appreciation for your art exhibit in New Mexico. I say appreciation because growing up in a devout Catholic family taught me to love and respect the Virgin of Guadalupe in more ways than imaginable. Her image and what she represents will forever be embedded in my heart. I do not, however, feel that anyone has the right to tell me the ways in which it is appropriate to view her. Tradition has taught us to obey and do as told without any question. This mind set was fine for the time period in which it represented, but we live in a world filled with much contradiction. In order to protect ourselves from the corruption that lives among us, I feel we must stand tall in the face of adversity to protect those things that we hold sacred such as the Virgin of Guadalupe. I have read numerous e-mails for and against this controversy. I do not see where the Archbishop of New Mexico can dictate what will and will not be see in a tax-funded organization. Churches are exempt from paying taxes and therefore should let decisions such as these be made by the people who pay the taxes in support of these organizations. Today's world is filled with a vast cultural background, no more present than in this "melting pot" we call the United States. Since we are such a large group of peoples with many different viewpoints and upbringings I find it difficult to believe that the Archbishop of New Mexico truly believes that he has the right to speak on behalf of all Catholics everywhere. I was born and raised Catholic and can tell of many others such as myself who do not appreciate having one man stand up and speak for millions of people around the world. Our forefathers set up the Constitution with the separation of Church and State for reasons such as this. The Pilgrims fled their homeland to start a new life in America free from the bondage of religion. It is unfortunate that you have to endure such adversity towards such a beautiful and personal testimonial of you and your relationship with The Virgin of Guadalupe. I did not feel a sense of disrespect but rather a love beyond words towards an icon who has been role model throughout your life. I found the piece inspiring for this reason. I felt relieved to see a person who was comfortable enough with her self and her personal relationship with the Virgin of Guadalupe to create such an exhibit. Growing up as a little girl, the Virgin is easy to relate to. Backed by the age of innocence, one has many things in common with her. But as one gets older and searches for her new identity as a woman, the Virgin becomes harder and harder to identify with. Your art piece speaks to young women everywhere telling them that the Virgin of Guadalupe can continue to be a role model to them in more ways than those in which they were taught, she is willing to stand by them throughout the changes in their life and the world. I am proud of you and your willingness to share this personal experience you have with the Virgin.

I am only regretful that others who are blinded by their own prejudices cannot appreciate it. Good Luck to you and all those involved.

God Bless


Rachel L. Gonzalez
San Diego, California


Subject: In support of Alma Lopez
Date: Mon, 16 Apr 2001 15:36:22 -0400
From: "Brynildsen, James" <jbrynildsen@LSIJAX.COM>
To: 'Alma Lopez' <almalopez@earthlink.net>

I'm a computer artist that lives and works in Jacksonville Florida. I'm not Latino nor have I ever been to New Mexico. But I was raised in the Catholic traditions. I read your story online while reading the news and have been following it the best I can since. I wanted to email you and and give you my support in your struggles with the people of your area in understanding your art it's message. I can tell you that there are about 30 artists I'm working with that completely support you and your point of view, and right to express it. However, in the my attempts to merely discuss your story and it's implications to the art community, I've created my own troubles at work. Well it turns out I can't talk about religious art art work. Our area is heavily dominated by Baptists... which neither understand real art or Catholics; at least not from my experiences. It's a damn shame too. But I don't give up that easily. I can see you won't either and I'm glad. What I wanted to express to them was their "faith should be stronger than an image". But they never could get past the blasphemy concept. I personally feel my faith stronger than that and it is not based on any one image of Jesus, the Virgin, or any other image of a holy person. I don't see it's relevant to their power and grace that they gave to us. Am I wrong?
Muchos gracias for your time.

(James Brynildsen)


Subject: ON liturgical art
Date: Mon, 16 Apr 2001 15:19:23 -0600
From: "Tracy E. Bailey" <tebailey@qwest.net>
To: Alma Lopez <almalopez@earthlink.net>
References: 1 , 2

Dear Alma,

Below is a copy of a letter I wrote to the Santa Fe New Mexican on Sunday, April the 15th, in response to a full page ad taken out by a Ms. Kristina Johnson, railing against your now famous portrayal of the Virgen of Guadalupe.

I hope everything else is going well.  Keep up your courage and fight the power!


Tracy Bailey


I am a liturgical artist who works in the medium of stained glass.  With my father, Charles Z. Lawrence, I have created hundreds of mosaics and stained glass windows for churches all over this country including the National Cathedral in Washington DC.  That's why, this morning I was amused to read Kristina Johnson's uninformed treatise on liturgical art.

Liturgical art in the Christian tradition, has always been used to inspire, but not exactly in the way Ms. Johnson claims.  It's been used to inspire fear and awe, to gain or maintain political control over those who could not read, the masses.  The stained glass window is an excellent example of this theory.  Many agree that the medium of stained glass reached it's artistic pinnacle in Northern Medieval Europe where enormous gothic cathedrals were built.  With the help of a then new architectural innovation, the flying buttress, vast walls in those buildings could be devoted to stained glass windows.  Because most people could not read, the windows told a story of "Christianity" through pictures.  (In fact, the Catholic Church strictly forbade anyone but it's priests to read or interpret the gospels. 

Naturally the leaders and policy makers of the Church were always sons of the ruling aristocracy.)  The cathedrals took centuries to build and their chief concern was to awe and to dominate.  They were political propaganda, used to display the divinity, might and power of the king or lord who built them.  (This is nothing new, just look at the pyramids.)

This scenario of religious icon as political policy, can be clearly seen in the famous windows of Chartres cathedral in France.  The southern rose window, The Rose of Dreux, and the northern rose, The Rose of France, were paid for by two 13th century, warring factions.  The king of France, Louie VIII, had died.  His Spanish widow Blanche de Castille and his half brother, Philippe Hurepel, immediately began a civil war over the guardianship of the next king, Louie and Blanche's infant son, Louis IX.  Blanche, the Queen mother, refused to relinquish control of her son to Philippe.  But Philippe, had the support of most of the Great Lords and the royal family.  In a fight over the hearts and minds of the French people, the two windows, which face each, other play out this rivalry in their iconography.  Blanche's window, the Rose of France, shows at it's center a strong, dominant Virgin, seated on the throne, scepter in hand, with the infant Christ on her knee.  Behind them, appear symbols of France and, lest it be lost on anyone, Blanche's castles.  In this case, the Virgin is obviously Blanche with the future king of France on her knee, clearly displaying that she is the true regent.  The opposing window, Philippe's Rose of Dreux, shows a stern faced, adult Christ enthroned and surrounded by symbols of the Apocalypse.  At the bottom of the window, the Evangelists stand astride the prophets. The window is bathed in strong, late day sun which casts it's rays on the surrounding walls.  The message?  Look out Blanche honey, I am going to kick some butt and the powers that be, "got my back"!

Our modern idea of Christian images as being of God or being made to inspire us personally, really is a new one.  When I look at the image of the Virgen of Guadalupe, I see a sweet, loving mother, but I also note that she is standing on a half moon.  Knowing what I do of Christian iconography and the history of the Catholic Church, I know that image of Guadalupe was tailored to the New World peoples by that Church, who was very eager to bring the indigenous population under her control.  The Aztecs, Incas and Mayas all worshipped the moon as a fertility Goddess.

The Catholic church needed to co-opt that indigenous image, to help along with what was a hostile, military takeover of the native peoples and their lands.  And why was the Church so interested in bring new souls into the fold?   Just visit the Cathedral in Toledo Spain, where you'll see the gold and silver of the New World in copious amounts!

So, when you think of a piece of religious art work, think of the person who created it and what they were trying to say. 

Ms. Lopez has just appropriately used a very old vehicle to get out her political message and frankly, she wouldn't be alone in that!

Tracy Lawrence Bailey

Lawrence West Stained Glass