November 27, 2001

Subject: Our Lady
Date: Tue, 27 Nov 2001 19:35:20 -0800
From: "Michael W. Harper" <>
Organization:Mt. San Antonio College

Dear Alma Lopez,

I have been asked to write a short article on your lovely (and provocative) image, "Our Lady," for San Diego State University Press. The piece is to appear in anthology entitled, Bordered Sexualities (see the site for further details)

What I am curious about (and a big part of the focus of the piece) is the inherent irony of the image as you have depicted it. By irony, I mean this: Your version of the Virgin of Guadalupe demands that its audience be able (and willing) to think two things at once: 1.) the Virgen as sacrosanct icon with all of its social, religious and cultural components  and 2.) the same Virgen as a sensual (and sensuous) female that carries equally valid, yet distinctly different, social and cultural associations.

In researching the controversy that surrounds your work, I am struck by what I notice as peoples' unwillingness (or inability) to embrace both ways of thinking at the same time, thus provoking the varied, controversial responses to your work. Part of this, I suspect, is the cultural conditioning we all are potentially susceptible to when we rely too heavily on the pre-packaged (and utterly simplistic) thinking that American culture seems to seek out in the media and other surces of information. But, again, I think that there might be more to it than the knee-jerk reaction that blames all of our critical foibles on the media. I'm still working through some of this, but think that the religious tradition from which both your image and its controversy emerge might have more to do with it than I can fully articulate now.

I would appreciate any insight you might have into these ideas.
With much appreciation,

Mike Harper
Mt. San Antonio College