February 20, 2002

Subject: reply to Traveisa re Moral Cowards
Date: Wed, 20 Feb 2002 12:35:06 EST
From: Sedeno7@aol.com
To: AztlanNet@yahoogroups.com
CC: almalopez@earthlink.net, mvsedano@yahoo.com

Dear Traveisa,
In a posting this month you address to me "some believer you are" re Guadalupe.   I don't pretend to be the most faithful and have not been most compassionate in my analyses of Alma Lopez's La Lupe series  (I enjoy my satire, at least it's original and creative).   But at least I have the conviction to state that I am a believer, and make my position known.  If others on this lista choose not to have religious convictions of their own, I can respect that and may question them, but I will not put those convictions down.  

There are some on this lista, namely MVSedano, urrutia, and cacalaca, who have used my expressed religious beliefs as the butt of their juvenile jokes, yet they don't have any religious convictions of their own, or if they do, won't talk about them.  To them, I do respond: moral coward.   If you want to call it name-calling, judgements, etc., so be it.  And if it seems I am "proselytizing" about something, it is against the cliched and ignorant contempt for religion,  organized or personal, so many people on this lista express.

Along with your "believer" assessment of me, you state Guadalupe would not stoop to the level of intolerance I (pedro) do.  Granted, if "intolerance" is the correct judgement here..  But I point out to you and Alma that neither would Guadalupe  stoop to a sexual frolic with a mermaid (hagame el favor) as illustrated by Alma Lopez in her lame series.  For me, Guadalupe does exist, mermaids don't.  To put these two  on the same level "for art's sake", much less call it relevant Chicana art, is an insult to my intelligence, and, I think, to that of most Chicanas as well.

Traveisa, you  seem to be staunch in your high estimation of this Alma's work.   Where do you stand?  Here's back at you, esa:   Are you, and, if so, what kind, of believer are you, ?                       

-Pedro Romero Sedeño


Subject: AztlanNet: Reverent? Or not?
Date: Wed, 20 Feb 2002 10:20:38 -0800
From: JoAnn <joannpen@attbi.com>
Reply-To: AztlanNet@yahoogroups.com
To: AztlanNet/Mental Menudo <AztlanNet@yahoogroups.com>

Hola --
About a year ago, maybe more, an exhibit in NYC caused great controversy because the artist had used a traditional religious depiction of the virgin mother, and had 'decorated' it with dung -- elephant dung I think, but may be wrong. The RC church claimed it was a desecration. The artist, whom I think was from Africa, claimed he was honoring her as this was an indigenous tradition in the area he was from, that it somehow venerated her to connect her with this elemental substance of animal existence.

More than 10 years before, another artist created a work, beautiful in appearance, called 'Piss Christ.' He had plunged a Crucifix into a container of his own urine and photographed it. A viewer who had not known the liquid substance would have thought the crucifix was bathed in a golden holy glow.

Each artist claimed, and I choose to believe them, that there was no attempt to degrade others' religion or religious beliefs. But yes, that they were making art that dealt with religion, but was, in any case, their art.

As in NM, the museums that exhibited these challenging pieces were vilified by religious bodies and by local governments.

My question: do the arguers about Guadalupe also think these other artists deserve to be condemned for their own artistic expression [and presumably the expression of their consciences]? Or would they defend the right of religious/artistic expression, even if it differed from their own? Would they agree that much religious artistic expression also has a sensual, even sexual, nature? And that it doesn't take away from the art? Or that much artistic religious expression also has political implications? And that it doesn't take away from the religious artistic expression?

Could we agree that artistic works can be complex and have multiple layers of meaning, some contradictory? That living with contradictions is part of the human, and religious, experience? That many Catholics and many Chicanos can -- as with family members -- have a love-hate relationship with their religion and even with their culture? And that the drama of these contradictions is appropriately carried out in the work of artists?

Finally, shouldn't we all, as part of a multi-cultural society, be willing to accept that another person's expression is about them and their expression, and not about attacking other people whose religious persuasion is different? That the occasional offensive work, even if offensive to many, is worth tolerating as part of the process that creates many kinds of work to appreciate?

One older artist once told me that most works of visual art that we consider classic today were considered controversial and even offensive when first displayed. At the same time, there were other controversial works that faded away. With works created today, we can use our best judgment and try to elevate it, knowing full well that posterity may ask, What on earth were they thinking?

My opinion: this discussion on the nature of art, specific and general, is very important and should continue. I think this was the original point of the mental menudo? But surely this can be accomplished without vilifying the maker of art, even if we don't like the artistic product.

You think?