Museum backs exhibit with bikini-clad Virgin Mary Art protest
By Deborah Baker
SANTA FE, N.M. -- 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 interference.''
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
This article published in the Athens Banner-Herald on Saturday, May 26, 2001.