Museum board will reconvene to consider bikini-clad Virgin
By Richard Benke
April 5, 2001
SANTA FE, N.M. When regents of the Museum of New Mexico
met to discuss a bikini-clad Virgin Mary collage, the discussion wasn't about
sex or sacrilege. It was about seating.
Wednesday's regents' meeting was overwhelmed by some 750
people wanting to debate whether museum officials should remove a bare-midriff
image of Mary from the state-funded Museum of International Folk Art.
Hundreds of demonstrators, held outside by fire marshals,
chanted "Cancel the Meeting!" until the regents unanimously voted
to do just that before anyone had a chance to testify.
Board members said the discussion was likely ill-timed, coming
just before Catholics celebrate Easter Sunday.
"Holy Week is Holy Week plus the fact that we want to
make sure everything is done correctly," said board President Wood Arnold,
explaining why the meeting was rescheduled to the week of April 15.
"Our Lady," by Los Angeles artist Alma Lopez, has
come under attack by many Roman Catholics, including Archbishop Michael Sheehan
who said the work depicts Mary "as if she were a tart" and should
Some have asked for the artwork to be removed immediately,
but Arnold refused, saying the move would require a vote.
The Lopez retablo includes a photographic image of a model
representing the Virgin of Guadalupe, dressed in a floral two-piece outfit
that resembles a bikini bathing suit.
But Lopez, who met reporters after the meeting, doesn't believe
"bikini" is a fair description.
"This is very conservative," she said.
Lopez added she saw nothing offensive in showing the image
of a strong, modern woman, perhaps outspoken, perhaps even revolutionary.
"Even if I look really hard at 'Our Lady' and the works of many Chicana artists, I don't see what is so offensive, honestly. I see beautiful bodies that are gifts from our creator."