Web posted Saturday, April 14, 2001
4:35 a.m. CT

Large crowd expected to protest museum exhibit

The Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE - Museum of New Mexico regents will listen - but not vote - when the public comments Monday on a bare-midriff image of Our Lady of Guadalupe that has touched off a pre-Easter furor.

Museum director Tom Wilson said Friday it could be two or three weeks before an appeal process plays out and regents make a decision on whether to remove the image, "Our Lady," from the Museum of International Folk Art.

"We'll expedite it as much as possible," Wilson said, "but there's a big volume of material, and there are obviously a lot of conflicting views."

Wilson said he asked the museum's 9-member Committee on Sensitive Materials to look at "Our Lady" by Los Angeles artist Alma Lopez and to make a recommendation about whether the work should remain on display.

Archbishop Michael Sheehan and other Roman Catholics have urged museum officials to remove the work, showing the Virgin Mary in a two-piece floral outfit that Sheehan called a bikini. He said the work depicted her "as if she were a tart."

Lopez has said the two-piece outfit is too conservative to be called a bikini.
She said she meant to portray the Virgin as a strong, independent, modern woman - and meant no disrespect.

But the Virgin's power was already well established, clergymen say.

The Rev. James Liprie, abbot of Our Lady of Guadalupe Abbey in Pecos, said 5 million Indians converted to Christianity within five years after the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared and spoke to Indian peasant Juan Diego near Mexico City in 1531.

Event organizers and participants expect 1,000 to 2,000 people Monday to argue for and against keeping the digital collage called "Our Lady" in the folk-art museum's CyberArte show.