Saturday, June 16, 2001
'Our Lady' Decision Appealed
By Morgan Lee
Journal Staff Writer
Critics of "Our Lady," an image of the Virgin Mary clothed in flower garlands, have appealed a decision by the Museum of New Mexico to keep the artwork on display.
An appeal filed by Deacon Anthony Trujillo of
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish asks the museum to remove the entire exhibit
containing "Our Lady" and contends that the Museum of New Mexico
violated its own policies by not considering the spiritual concerns of the
Roman Catholic Community in northern New Mexico.
California Artist Alma Lopéz has said
she created "Our Lady" to portray her faith in Our Lady of Guadalupe
as a depiction of a strong, confident woman. But the depiction has been criticized
by New Mexico residents including Archbishop of Santa Fe Michael Sheehan,
who called it sacrilegious.
"The Museum of New Mexico was not careful
to balance legitimate research, exhibition and interpretive needs with the
religious and spiritual concerns of the people," states the appeal, which
was read Friday by Trujillo outside Our Lady of Guadalupe Church at Agua Fria
and Guadalupe streets.
Trujillo filed the appeal with the museum a
few minutes later on behalf "people of faith" and parishioners of
his church, which includes more than 1,000 families.
Trujillo's appeal quotes the Gospel of John
to explain why he and the parish qualify as a concerned party under state
"We are defending our Mother from a distorted
and state-sponsored affront," the appeal states. "There is no human
law that for us can change that fact."
Museum of New Mexico President Tom Wilson could
not be reached for comment but said previously that he holds the authority
to decide appeals to decisions made by the state museum Sensitive Materials
The committee recommended last month that the
Cyber Arte exhibit remain intact and on display.
Appeals must be decided within 30 days and a
second appeal can be made to the Museum of New Mexico Board of Regents, a
board appointed by Gov. Gary Johnson to oversee four state museums and five
The Museum of International Folk Art, which
houses Cyber Arte, said it will close the exhibit Oct. 28.
In recommending that Cyber Arte remain intact
and on display, museum's Sensitive Materials Committee found the Museum of
International Folk Art operated in good faith and in compliance with state
laws and museum policies.
The committee acknowledged that a segment of
the community, including many Catholics, felt its faith was treated disrespectfully
by the Cyber Arte exhibit. Those concerns were weighed against concerns about
the preservation of free speech in the museum system, according to the committee,
which met 11 times, held extended conversations by e-mail and considered thousands
of public comments regarding the exhibits.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Church Pastor Michael
Shea also Friday addressed a gathering of reporters and "Our Lady"
critics, suggesting the Museum of New Mexico remove the Cyber Arte exhibit
in time for an annual religious procession in Santa Fe on June 24.
Shea said other programs at the museum continue
to be overshadowed by the Cyber Arte exhibit.
"The decision (to keep the display up)
was bad not only for us but also for the museum," said Shea, after his
speech. "If I ran a restaurant and designed a sandwich that was a flop,
I'd try to change it to something people could eat."
Attendance figures at the Museum of International
Folk Art have shown an increase in visits since Cyber Arte was mounted.
Trujillo meanwhile described the entire Cyber
Arte exhibit as deliberately offensive and that the "Museum of New Mexico
is attempting to establish a new religion called 'Our Lady' in violation of
Tey Marianna Nunn, curator of contemporary Hispano
and Latino collections at the folk art museum, created a pseudo-altar in the
Cyber Arte exhibit, where visitors were encouraged to leave offerings from
their computers at home.
"It is our understanding that if the Alma
Lopéz piece comes down the whole exhibit will also come down,"
the appeal by Trujillo stated. "This would in our opinion be appropriate
since it is the whole exhibit that is offensive, the Lopéz piece only
overwhelms the rest of the exhibit."
State employee and activist José L. Villegas
Sr., a vigorous critic Alma Lopéz's work and the museum staff, submitted
his own appeal to the museum and a separately written "possible claim
for damages" under the state Tort Claims Act.
Villegas's appeal includes many of the same
points as Trujillo's document but is longer and charges the state museum with
violating the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the Charter of the United Nations
and other international agreements.
Villegas, who traces a mixed Mexican and Native
American ancestry, submitted his appeal to the museum on stationery bearing
the Mexican Aztlan symbol and a Native American Kokopelli figure. He punctuated
a speech Monday with the exclamation "Ya Basta! (enough already)."
Villegas's tort claim accuses the museum of
"malicious prosecution in connection with the Cyber Arte exhibition"
without further elaboration.
Copyright 2001 Albuquerque Journal