October 2, 2001

Subject: RE: Con Permiso
Date: Tue, 2 Oct 2001 12:05:24 -0500
From: Don Fisher <dmf@ntmail.mcc.cc.tx.us>
To: "'almalopez@earthlink.net'" <almalopez@earthlink.net>

Our Iconoclasts of the week are computer artist Alma Lopez and the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Lopez's CiberArte exhibition entitled "Our Lady" drew fire and ire from local Catholics because it depicts a mature Hispanic woman in a traditional Madonna motif, but her floral drape is arranged much like modern dress with mini-skirt and bare midriff. A bare-breasted angel completes the shrine-like image.

Lopez work is not sexually explicit, nor is it particularly sexy. In spite of protests, which included a modified hunger strike, the museum let the exhibit stay.

As for the topless angel, there are churches throughout the world that boast of such images by more recognized artists.

Nudity in religious images is nothing new; no one has suggested painting over the Sistine Chapel. Most crucifixes portray Christ himself in a semi-nude state. No one would have the temerity to suggest sexual overtones to such a symbol of humiliation rising to triumph.

Obviously the intent of the would-be censors goes much deeper.

Lopez's intent was to create an image of the Hispanic woman as vital to her culture and its survival in a world being devoured by Nike, NFL caps and Coors Light. Her Lady is a modern, living and real image; part of her own age, not a cloistered relic of the obsolete past.

A native of Mexico now living in Los Angeles, Lopez points out that in Hispanic culture, only two dominant female images have emerged: The Virgin of Guadalupe, the brown Madonna of the first Mexican revolution, and La Adelita, the sweetheart of the revolution of 1910.

Lopez offers a third: The Lady of the Americas, the post-NAFTA feminine mystique.

Today's true symbol of the poor shops at Wal-Mart.

We suspect that the underlying intent of the protesting churchgoers has less to do with traditional religious symbolism than with the very modern concept that women may not keep to their submissively traditional roles. The church too often offers refuge to those who would keep women silent and submissive as the paint and stone. Statues cannot be priests; paintings have no need for contraception.

Alma Lopez has been careful to distinguish between her Lady and the mother of Jesus Christ. The image she created has been immersed cultural politics in which religion (but not genuine religious passion) plays only a superficial role.

These protests, we suspect, are equally superficial regarding religion.

Those who would seek to repress speech should carefully read the First

Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, and simply disagree.

This is hardly the time to attack our most fundamental rights.