May 22, 2001
Scantily clad Virgin Mary
image to remain on exhibit in New Mexico
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) A collage of the Virgin of Guadalupe clad in a flowery two-piece swimsuit will remain on display at a state-run
museum despite protests from some Roman Catholics.
A museum committee recommended Tuesday that
"Our Lady," by Los Angeles artist Alma Lopez, continue on display
at the Museum of International Folk Art. However, the entire exhibit of which
it is a part will close earlier than previously scheduled.
"The committee's recommendation will stand
unless it's appealed," said Tom Wilson, director of the Museum of New
Mexico, which runs the folk art museum. An appeal would go to Wilson.
Many Catholics had condemned the image as sacrilegious
and insensitive and demanded its removal. Others among about 600 people who
spoke at a forum in April said removing the piece would be censorship and
would violate the artist's rights.
Archbishop Michael Sheehan, one of the critics,
was traveling in northern New Mexico and did not immediately return a call
from The Associated Press seeking comment.
The "Cyber Arte: Tradition Meets Technology"
exhibit, which includes the collage, opened on Feb. 25 and was scheduled to
close next February. Joyce Ice, head of the folk art museum, said the exhibit
would close on Oct. 28 instead, "in the spirit of reconciliation."
She said she thought closing the exhibit early
would "walk a middle ground," acknowledging the controversy but
without censoring the art.
The Committee on Sensitive Materials, in a letter
to Wilson, said the artists selected for the exhibit "have rights under
the First Amendment to have their works displayed free of censorship or other
The nine-member committee also said the Museum
of International Folk Art meant no disrespect in exhibiting art that presents
ideas derived from religious imagery.
The collage includes a photograph of a model
portraying the Virgin of Guadalupe, wearing a computer-generated two-piece
floral outfit that displays her midriff.
Lopez, herself a Catholic, said she meant to
portray the Virgin as a strong, independent, modern woman and meant
The Guadalupe phenomenon originated in 1531
when the Virgin Mary was said to have appeared to Juan Diego, a Christian
Aztec, near Mexico City. Miracles came to be associated with the Virgin of
Guadalupe, and her image now appears on religious artworks, tattoos and even
More than 35 New Mexico churches are dedicated
to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
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