Thursday, 11 October, 2001, 13:18 GMT 14:18 UK
Bikini-clad Madonna can stay
Students view the controversial collage
The image will remain on view until the end of October
A controversial portrait of the Virgin of Guadalupe
wearing a floral bikini will remain on show after a US court refused to order
a gallery to take it down.
Protesters had said the digital image of Mexico's
national representation of the Virgin Mary was offensive and insensitive after
it went on show in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in February.
But a judge has decided that the city's Museum
of International Folk Art can keep the picture, by Mexican-born Alma Lopez,
on its walls because of a legal technicality.
The image will now be on view until the end
of October - a date that was set as a compromise by the museum in May.
Protesters took the museum to court because
they said its decision to hang the piece and leave it up violated the state's
open meetings laws.
But State District Judge James Hall said the
law required those who were offended to notify the venue that they had broken
the laws before resorting to court action.
And removing the piece would not be the right
course of action even if the proper notice had been given, he said.
The picture, called Our Lady, shows the icon
with her hands on her hips and being supported by a bare-breasted angel.
Some detractors had staged protests at Santa
Fe's Museum of International Folk Art, saying the work was sacrilegious.
The Most Rev Michael J Sheehan, archbishop of
Santa Fe, said Ms Lopez had turned the Holy Virgin into a "tart".
More than 750 people attended a public meeting
about the piece in April before the museum decided it would not remove Our
Lady - but cut the length of its exhibition by four months as a compromise.
Ms Lopez defended her work, saying she intended
Our Lady to show a strong and beautiful woman.
"I see this woman's legs and her belly
and [the angel's] breasts, and I don't see anything wrong," she told
the Los Angeles Times newspaper in May.
The Cyber Arte: Tradition Meets Technology exhibit,
which includes the collage, was originally being due to continue until February
2002 but will now close on 28 October "in the spirit of reconciliation".
More than 35 New Mexico churches are dedicated
to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The phenomenon began in 1531 when the Virgin Mary was said to have appeared to Juan Diego, a Christian Aztec, near Mexico City, prompting stories of miracles.