Saturday, June 2, 2001

'Our Lady' Artist Supported

By Joseph Ditzler
Of the Journal

The guest of honor did not materialize.

Alma Lopez, according to her friends and fellow artists, feared leaving her Los Angeles home for the opening Friday of "Las Malcriadas ... coloring out of the lines" at Emanations Studio Gallery in Santa Fe.

"Las Malcriadas," or, loosely, "bad girls" in Spanish, runs until June 22 and features work by Lopez and other Hispanic female artists who brought their own controversial work out of the closet in a show of support.

Lopez created heat in the Catholic community, especially in Santa Fe, with her photo collage "Our Lady," a depiction of a woman in a Virgin of Guadalupe pose wearing nothing but garlands of roses, on display at the state's Museum of International Folk Art. Local Catholics have criticized the work as sacrilegious and offensive to their cultural heritage.

The state museum system's Sensitive Materials Committee recommended last week leaving the work on display, but for a shorter period than originally scheduled.

A positive decision for Lopez, but one her supporters said carried negative repercussions.

"She was intending to come," said Pola Lopez, owner of Emanations Studio Gallery and creator of the "Las Malcriadas" show. But, once the museum committee decided to leave "Our Lady" up, Alma Lopez received death and arson threats, said Pola Lopez, who is no relation. "I think she's gone into hiding," she said.

Anthony Trujillo, an Our Lady of Guadalupe Church deacon, has said he would probably find elements of "Las Malcriadas" offensive, but since it was a private gallery, not a state museum, he saw no reason to object.

Pola Lopez said she didn't recognize many of the visitors during the two-hour opening, but that many others were friends and supporters.
"It seems pretty positive," she said.

To mark the opening, artist and comedian Goldie Garcia of Albuquerque sashayed around thestudio in a bikini arrayed with silk flowers.

"Thank God for glue guns," she said.

She also brought out her first work, a piece about eight years old titled "Our Lady of the Desert."

Her rendition of a Virgin of Guadalupe in traditional full, flowing robes features Garcia's own grinning visage and a green lizard clinging beneath her waist. Garcia said she created the piece out of pain the night she learned her father had cancer.

She felt pain, too, to think of the older Hispanic men and women who revere the Virgin Mother as part of their faith feeling insulted by Alma Lopez's "Our Lady." "Yet I'm an artist and a feminist," Garcia said. "I went home confused. I tossed and turned."

In the end, Garcia came down on the artist's side. "We have this thing, why do we always have to wonder what's under the dress?"

The furor over "Our Lady" boils down to sexuality as sin, she said. She advocates being proud of our bodies and comfortable with our sexuality.

Artist Delilah Montoya's 21/2-foot by 3-foot enlarged photograph of a penis pierced seven times, "Seven Wounds of St. Sebastian," dominated the exhibit, if by size alone.

"This is a bad-girl show," said Montoya, a photography instructor at Santa Fe Community College. "In many ways, it's cutting to the chase, what the controversy is all about."

And that would be male privilege, Montoya said. "A group of men letting us (women) know how to depict one of our own," she said, motioning to a smaller copy of "Our Lady" on a wall across the room.

Kathleen Hulley, 54, a Santa Fe and New York resident, wielded a videocamera in the studio for the express purpose of making a documentary. The "Our Lady" controversy and the response to it by female artists is indicative of economic and political changes occurring in Santa Fe, Hulley said.

"I think these kinds of things essentially are about really rigid patriarchal control," she said.

As for Montoya's photograph, Hulley said she found the "unaestheticness" of it unsettling.

"It's just the way it is," she added. "We don't like to get caught looking. But we have to look."

Copyright 2001 Albuquerque Journal