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Hearing canceled over “Virgin Mary in Bikini”

SANTA FE, N.M. ( - A hearing planned by New Mexico state museum officials to discuss artwork depicting the Virgin Mary in a bikini was canceled by them on Wednesday after a large angry crowd showed up.

About 800 people showed up for the public hearing by the state-funded Museum of New Mexico board of regents. More than 300 people could not get into the hall and stood outside shouting “cancel the meeting.”

The controversial artwork, entitled “Our Lady,” is a digital image parodying the famous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe with the Virgin Mary in a bikini. Archbishop Michael Sheehan of Santa Fe criticized the picture as “yet another trashing of Catholicism” that “shows the insensitivity to a large segment of Santa Feans and imprudence in the administration of a state-funded institution. In the recent past the Virgin Mary has been shown in contemporary art smeared with elephant dung and she has been depicted as a golden haired Barbie doll. Now this!” he said.

The image’s creator, California artist Alma Lopez, read a statement to reporters that she had planned to read at the hearing. “What happens to the rights of artists and curators to create an exhibit without censorship? ... It scares me to see so many people organized against me and attacking me,” she said. One of the most vocal critics of the display, Henry J. Casso, rejected the claim of censorship. “It’s not about First Amendment issues. It’s about a sacred image,” he said.