March 29, 2001
Subject: [AztlanNet] Dr. R's Query
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 00:02:19 -0800
From: JoAnn <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: AztlanNet/Mental Menudo <AztlanNet@yahoogroups.com>
Am I wrong? asks Dr. Romero.
Well, yes, I believe you certainly are.
Art can, in fact, deal with any subject. Even
the most horrendous.
To do so is not to celebrate depravity -- yes,
there is such a thing -- but to honestly address what exists in this world.
Artists who dealt with the topic of AIDS were roundly condemned in the late
1980s because some of their art attacked political and religious leaders.
Yes, it was "offensive." Yet it furthered the dialogue about this
disease and the responsibility of all to know and understand it in ways that
any number of official medical reports could never do.
Artists have dealt with the atrocities of war,
depicting rapes, maiming, mass deaths, abuse of children and, in so doing,
identified them as subjects that could be addressed, not swept under the rug.
And yes, those images have been offensive. Some of the art will survive over
the ages and some will not. Yet it can be an essential part of the current
intellectual, political and emotional debates of our culture.
You will not want this art hanging above your
sofa, but surely it deserves to be seen in museums, galleries and colleges,
at least. I recently saw part of the "Made in California" exhibit
that was here in Sacra, and, would you believe, that dismembered limbs were
depicted -- the arms of farm workers packaged like a meat product. A shocking
but telling perspective.
To treat the Virgin of Guadalupe as an icon to be examined, criticized or even ridiculed surely offends some, but no more than that same treatment of the U.S. Flag, for example.
And sometimes, even if shocking, this is an
enlightening experience for the viewer or listener of the shock art. Surely
art, if original, will question assumptions.
Also, don't forget that bestiality as a topic
has been treated, sometimes literally, sometimes symbolically by Renaissance
artists depicting the Greek and Roman Myths.
If you believe that art -- literary, visual,
performing -- is only to revere what is already deified, and perhaps reified,
then yes, you will have a whole laundry list of topics that are "untouchable,"
except by reverence.
But if you believe in the free exchange of ideas,
you will not want to suppress that exchange. [Can you imagine the current
culture without Guillermo Gomez Pena?] You will tolerate, even if you do not
embrace, such challenges, whether framed as ridicule or irony or, for some
artists, obscenity. In any case, suppressing a topic often causes it to fester
and become even more toxic, I believe.
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 08:20:59 -0700
From: "David Fitelson" <email@example.com>
CC: <firstname.lastname@example.org>, "Peter Simonson" <email@example.com>
Would you please ask your reporter Ann Constable to correct her repeated, erroneous and inflammatory allegation that Alma Lopez's image of the Virgin in the current exhibition at the International Museum of Folk Art is "bikini clad." The artist herself describes her subject as "a strong Virgen dressed in roses." Moreover, it is time for Ms. Constable to learn what a bikini is, and what it is not. The contour and design of the Virgin's adornment clearly parallels the modest swimsuits worn by such Godesses as the late Rita Hayworth, years before anyone heard of Bikini atoll in the Pacific, let alone the abbreviated bathing costume that was to be given its name.
Thank you so much.
Subject: Alma Lopez: Please read!
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 10:31:17 EST
To: firstname.lastname@example.org, TMNunn@moifa.org
Dr. Joyce Ice, Director
Dr. Tey Marianna Nunn, Curator of Contemporary Hispano/Latino Collections
Dr. Ice and Dr. Nunn:
I am writing this letter in support for the artist Alma Lopez.
I am devastated that her work is seen
as threatening and "sacrilegious" and that Jose Villegas, a fellow
Latino, started the movement to remove her exhibit.
I am a Chicana, born in Mexico and raised in
East Los Angeles. I grew up with powerful images of La Virgen de Guadalupe
in my household. My household continues to be Catholic. When I
was growing up I felt excluded from the Catholic Church and very afraid of
all the things it said about women. I was particularly angry about the
madonna/whore dichotomy and felt that these were my only options as a woman.
It was often that I avoided mass altogether, because I felt that members
weren't there to pray for me and Latinas in general.
However, it wasn't until I developed a personal
relationship with La Virgen de Guadalupe, that I felt like I was a part of
the church. This is something that I did and it was a very individual process.
Seeing a similarity between La Virgen and me made a world of a difference,
being that she is powerful and female and brown. This meant the world
I have studied Alma's art and I see no wrong
in what she has done to express her love of the Virgen. As a fellow
artist, a writer, I have often personalized my writing to include conversations
with Cancer (since I'm a cancer-survivor), with my Fat (since I, like most
women, have body image issues), and with God (especially during my angrier
times, when I had to have surgery and radiation due to my cancer.)
Allowing this dialogue in my work was not only therapeutic, but also let me express my relationship with these inanimate objects. I'm not calling the Virgen an object, but what I'm saying is that as artists we have the right to express ourselves and to share with others our art.
By banning Alma's art work, you're stripping
her right as an artist, but also, you're forcing her to express her love in
the way YOU see fit. Or the Church sees fit. Historically Latina women have
been discouraged to take part in the Church, and Alma's art is merely trying
to narrow that gap. She is trying to show that we can very well have
a relationship with La Virgen and be a part of a Church that hasn't in the
past included the brown woman's
voice. I urge you to keep this in mind. I think that young Latina women need to see
themselves as powerful and as bright lights. We are, also, made in the image of God. If protesters can't see that, then that's exactly why we need this exhibit, so that we can encourage dialogue and further open that
Thank you for reading my comments,
Subject: I hope you're well
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 11:06:34 -0500
From: "Dane Pollei" <email@example.com>
J. Edson Way III
Cultural Affairs Officer
State of New Mexico
I write now for two reasons. I recently learned
of the controversy surrounding the Alma Lopez artwork at the MOIFA. I wish
you the best of luck in dealing with this affair, and I hope the work will
remain on display. The issue is not so much about censorship, as it is our
ability to have a civil dialogue, and respect for the deep personal meaning
inherent in an artists' work. Having been a politician for a brief period
in my career, I learned that extremists come in many forms. And while their
intentions are often honorable, their actions should not be tolerated. I do
wish you the best of luck. I am sure that in the scheme of things this controversy
is small. Often it is the small things that make the world beautiful. I am
not a scholar of Chicana art, yet I still found the image striking.
My second reason for writing is that I do not
believe I ever properly thanked you. I have wanted to work in a museum ever
since I was a child. Of the schools I could have attended; Northwestern, Marquette,
or the University of North Carolina, I picked Beloit. I had never heard of
the school until I received a brochure that had a picture of the Logan. I
still vividly remember the tour you gave me of the museum and the collections.
I can still see the handle-bar mustache, the ear ring and the pink oxford
shirt you wore. More than that, I recall your enthusiasm and genuine kindness.
Years later, I realized how special and rare it was for someone in high school
to receive that much time from a faculty member.
Chance made you my advisor as a freshman and I will never forget the kindness you and Jenny and the kids showed us. You opened your house and your hearts. I still remember the joy many of us had when you created the museum studies program as well as our sadness when you left for greener pastures in New Mexico.
I have had much success in my career. My beginnings
in this field were based on what I learned at Beloit--what I learned in large
part from you. Recently, I ran across an old photograph of me, Wil Grewe and
you outside the Logan. Wil and I had on leisure suites and were in our Lem
and Lars Logan guise and dragged you outside to be in the photograph. Who
else but you would have tolerated that much nuttiness from undergraduates?
Henry Moy told me about your recent health problems.
I do hope they are behind you. Someday, I hope we can catch up with each other
at a conference or reunion. Until then, give my regards to Jenny. I visited
Beloit once when Sarah was a student. I think meeting her as an adult, rather
than the little girl who showed us your farm, was the first time I felt old.
I wish you all the best, and thank you for all
the small things you did for me and so many other students.
DaneDane F. Pollei
Director for Administration
John Michael Kohler Arts Center
Subject: Fwd: Alma Lopez
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 10:29:07 -0600
From: Dionne Espinoza <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I am sending Chicana Power energy so that this
censor-ship of your amazing work will end. The good news is that your work
sparks dialogue--and makes an even large impact for raising consciousness
about the kinds of policing that continues to take place around gender in
the name of organized religion. Adelante, Mujer,
>Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 10:21:16 -0600
>From: Dionne Espinoza <email@example.com>
>Subject: Alma Lopez
>To the Curator of the Museum of International Folk Art,
>I am writing this letter to voice my support for Chicana art and
>expression. It has come to my attention that the work of Ms. Alma Lopez
>has sparked controversy among those objecting to the use of the
>iconography of La Virgen de Guadalupe in her work.
>Her re-imagining of La Virgen is among those creative expressions of
>Chicanas and others who seek to revalue La Virgen as symbol of women's
>empowerment and indigenous cultural resistance. I am among those formerly
>practicing Catholics who have come to ask why La Virgen must be equated
>with women's subordination and patient suffering. Indeed, the
>brilliance of Ms. Lopez' re-imagining, in which a young Chicana proudly
>faces the viewer in a pachuca-like stance, with an interweaving of the
>stone of Coyoaxauqui strikes me as an apt way to highlight
>Chicana/Mexicana/mestiza history, hybrid spirituality, and the
>incorporation of the strong goddess as a way of rethinking our
>relationship to our own bodies and souls.
Women's Studies and Chicana/o Studies
University of Wisconsin at MadisonDionne Espinoza
Subject: Cyber Arte
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 09:53:27 -0700
From: curator <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I'm the curator of the Wheelwright Museum, next
door to the Museum of International Folk Art, where "Our Lady" is
receiving so much attention. Yesterday afternoon I went to see Cyber Arte,
and I think your work is wonderful. If the Virgin is at work in the world
today, she recognizes your strength, intelligence, and humor.
I also grew up in L.A.When you were in El Serreno,
I lived in Eagle Rock. I miss it a lot, and thank you for bringing that familiar
energy to New Mexico.
Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian
Subject: Alma Lopez
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 14:53:00 -0500
From: "Dane Pollei" <email@example.com>
Dr. Joyce Ice, Director
Museum of International Folk Art
Dear Dr. Ice,
I write this in support of the work of Alma
Lopez currently part of an exhibition at MOIFA. I do not know the artist personally,
and have only viewed pictures of the work in question. I am not a scholar,
yet I can appreciate the beauty within the work.
What I find most disturbing is the willingness
of many in our nation to place the civil right of free expression of visual
artists as subordinate to authors or the general public. I am not a Roman
Catholic, but I believe the artist's intent was not to denigrate Catholicism.
Yet even if it does, why is this so intolerable? Are the protestors demanding
the removal of every book perceived to have an anti-Catholic message from
every public library in your state? I agree that visual messages are often
more powerful than written ones. Yet isn't the basic right to that expression
inherent in our society? Will we move down that slippery slope towards next
burning books after all of the artwork that is perceived as degenerate is
If someone looks at the artwork and loses their
faith, I would argue that they never had any in the first place. I do wish
you the best of luck and I understand the unfortunate effect politics can
have on a situation like this.
A friend of mine once worked for Dr. Wilson,
and Ed Way was my teacher and college advisor. I know them both to be honorable
people. I hope you will all defend every artists right to freely express their
Dane F. Pollei
Director for Administration
John Michael Kohler Arts Center
Subject: Professor defends bold works of female
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 14:56:10 -0500
Professor defends bold works of female artists
By: Blake Driver
A recent controversy over an art piece on display in Santa Fe raises new questions concerning the artistic expression of certain Hispanic-American ideals. "Our Lady," a piece that depicts an almost nude Virgin Mary, is part of the Museum of International Folk Art's exhibit "CyberArte: Tradition Meets Technology," and has attracted the attention of conservatives from Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Santa Fe, who want the piece removed for its blasphemous nature.
In light of the incident, UNM Spanish professor Dr. Tey Diana Rebolledo presented the talk "Las Claravidentes: Chicana Artists and Writers, Gender, Ethnicity and Creativity" at the University Art Museum Wednesday as part of the Cultural Studies Colloquium. Her speech focused on the work of Chicana artists Marie Romero Cash and Alma López, creator of "Our Lady" as well as two Chicana writers, Pat Mora and Margarita Cota-Cárdenas.
"Although the image may be offensive to
some, it is an important piece of art that honestly educates the public on
Hispanic experiences in this country," Rebolledo states in her newsletter,
which advocates against the piece's removal.
"We feel that although the offended parishioners
have the right to request the removal of the piece, the Museum of New Mexico
should not do so," Rebolledo said.
López's piece was not the only controversial work represented in Rebolledo's speech. Chicana boldness was at the heart of Rebolledo's message. A sculpture by Romero Cash depicted the Trinity transformed into a "quarteto" with the addition of the Virgin Mary to the group, and Cota-Cárdenas advises her readers to "busca tu nombre dentro de ti," or "look for your name inside yourself."
In her attempt to examine the truthfulness behind
bold Chicana works, Rebolledo offered some perspective from her own experience
as a woman in the Catholic Church.
"One of the things the Catholic Church told us in my time is that you shouldn't read the Bible, that it should be interpreted by the priest," Rebolledo said.
The Chicana artists and writers covered in Rebolledo's
presentation were not afraid to tell their stories and give advice to others
to hear their own voices.
As Lopez's artistic statement comes under scrutiny, the Museum of New Mexico Board of Regents will meet April 4 to discuss the fate of the piece. Rebolledo advises all who are concerned to contact local government offices and to "make your voices heard now."
Story Source: Daily Lobo
Subject: Re: Cyber Art April 4 10am
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 17:22:48 -0500
From: "Svetlana Mintcheva" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Please find attached the letter I sent to our
National Coalition Against Censorship members and friends in New Mexico. I
have also sent e-mails of support to the museum directors and the curator.
If I can help in other ways do not hesitate to call.
I tried to find out more about the format of the meeting on Wednesday, but it appears that this will be decided at a meeting tomorrow. If you have more details as to participation, speakers, etc., please let me know.
Svetlana Mintcheva, Ph.D.
Arts Advocacy Project Coordinator
National Coalition Against Censorship
New York, NY 10001
The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) is an alliance of 50 national non-profit organizations, including religious, educational, professional, artistic, labor, and civil rights groups, committed to defending freedom of thought, inquiry, and expression. For more information about NCAC, visit us on-line at www.ncac.org.
March 29, 2001
I would like to alert you to a free expression controversy in your area and ask for your participation in the debate. Next Wednesdaythere will be a public meeting with the governing board of New Mexico's state museum system to consider whether the Museum of International Folk Art should remove an artwork that has offended some Roman Catholics. If you are able to go and join the discussion, please do so. The meeting will take place in the Museum of International Folk Art at 10AM, April 4, 2001 (706 Camino Lejo, about 2 miles southeast of Santa Fe's plaza, 505-476-1200, www.moifa.org). If you cannot make it to the meeting, please write to express your support of free expression to Museum of New Mexico Director, Thomas Wilson (The International Folk Art Museum is part of the Museum of New Mexico).
"Our Lady," the piece which some members of the Santa Fe Catholic community found offensive, is a digital photograph by Los Angeles artist Alma López representing the Virgin of Guadalupe. While familiar Guadalupe imagery is present - the rays of light, the cloak, the roses, the crescent moon, the angel - the virgin herself is represented by a photograph of a friend of the artist, hands on her hips and head raised, her robe open and revealing rose-laden undergarments. The angel below is represented by a topless woman, arms outstretched and butterfly wings extending from her shoulders and breasts. According to the artist, the idea was to portray the virgin as a strong and nurturing woman very much like the women in the community Alma López grew up in. You can see the work at http://home.earthlink.net/~almalopez/book/teatro.html. The controversial piece is part of Cyber Arte: Where Tradition Meets Technology (thorough October 28, 2001), an exhibition featuring computer-inspired work by contemporary Hispana/Chicana/Latina artists, who combine elements traditionally defined as "folk" with current computer technology to create a new aesthetic.
According to press sources, Jose Villegas, a parishioner at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and a Santa Fe community activist, launched a protest against the museum and the work. Joined by Anthony Trujillo, the deacon of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, and Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan, Villegas is fighting to have the work taken down. So far museum officials have said they have no intention of pulling López's piece.
We support the position of the museum and the responsible way in which they are handling the controversy. We applaud their ability to find a way to both respond to protests by holding a public meeting and also to stand by the free expression rights of the artist by leaving her work on display.
It is important to realize that such incidents are never isolated. The attack on a work of art in one part of the country is soon followed by another attack elsewhere: an atmosphere is gradually setting in where respect for First Amendment values is giving way to an insistence that work disagreeing with received beliefs should simply disappear from view. And if one museum cedes to the pressure of a vocal group, that would only encourage more and more groups to call for the suppression of ideas they dont like.
As you know, the issue of public institutions displaying art works that might be found offensive by certain representatives of religious groups was recently in the media spotlight in New York City. Mayor Rudolph Giulianis response to Renee Coxs "Yo Mamas Last Supper" prefigured, to an extent, the protests of Catholic officials in New Mexico. As a response to Giulianis reliance on the 1998 U.S. Supreme Court decision in NEA v. Finley, the Arts Advocacy Project prepared a short briefing paper explaining why Finley could not be used to justify censorship of disagreeable ideas and controversial viewpoints. I am enclosing this paper in the hope that it might help in the current debate in New Mexico.
Arts Advocacy Project Coordinator
Svetlana@ncac.orgAddress to write to:
Thomas Wilson, Director
Museum of New Mexico
P.O. Box 2087
Santa Fe, NM 87501
And please cc the following:
Joyce Ice, Ph.D.
Tey Marianna Nunn, Ph.D.
Curator of Contemporary Hispano and Latino collections
P.O. Box 2087
Santa fe, NM 87504
Dr. Edson Way
Cultural Affairs Officer
Office of Cultural Affairs
La Villa Rivera Building
228 E. Palace
Santa Fe, NM 87501
1125 N. McCadden Place Suite 148
Los Angeles, CA 90038-1212
Subject: small note of encouragement, in case
you needed it
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 16:25:25 -0600
From: "Jessica C. L. Nunn" <email@example.com>
Dear Ms. Lopez,
I just wanted to write you a note of support--I've
been keeping track of the bizarre controversy over "Our Lady" in
New Mexico. I'm not an art expert by any means, but I think your rendering
of Guadalupe is beautiful. Playful and exploratory, yes, but disrespectful
and trashy? Hardly. The people protesting MOIFA's showing of your piece aren't
seeing the grace you've put into your Guadalupe; instead they're gawking at
her flesh. How very sad.
Hang in there, because you're doing wonderful
Subject: "Our Lady"
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 15:26:39 -0800 (PST)
From: Alex Baez <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I went to see your pieces and I must say it
is very interesting! I was wondering if you have more of these imiges that
involve "Our Lady od Guadalupe?
I would like to see them. Do you have them showing
in Santa Fe as well?
Are you from Mexico?
I would love to learn more about yourself, since
I am a curator of an art Gallery myself.
Could you send me your resume as well by email?
I look forwerd in hearing from you and I thank
you in advance for your time.
Subject: Re: Cyber Art
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 17:06:58 -0700
From: tey diana rebolledo <email@example.com>
Dear Alma: Here is the letter I sent to the
Archbishop today. Also, some very positive letters and a positive editorial
appeared in the Albuquerque Tribune. Hope you are doing well. Oh, and I want
to buy a print of the "Offensive painting" so let me know what it
will cost and postage and start working! Un abrazo, Diana
701 Griegos Rd. NW
Albuquerque, NM 87107
March 27, 2001
Archbishop Michael Sheehen
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Dear Archbishop Sheehen:
I read your comments about the painting by Alma
López in the paper today. I wonder if you have seen the exhibition
and have read the statement by the artist where she states that the painting
is part of her devotion to Our Lady.
I was raised in the Catholic Church in Las Vegas
New Mexico and later New London, Connecticut where we were told not to read
the Bible, books were banned, and we were even made to take a pledge not to
see certain movies. When I was thirteen I was told by our parish priest that
I would go to hell because I had been to the house of a Jewish friend. For
some reason we were not to go into the houses of people who were not Catholic.
Over the years, I am 63 now, I had hoped the Catholic Church had changed,
had become more respectful and open. After all, it seems to me, what Christianity
in all its best ideals teaches is: respect for the other, love, forgiveness.
The Church has not been respectful towards women
and the challenges they face in contemporary times. It has given us role models
of passive, demure virgins who look down. It has made us ashamed of our sexuality
and independence. Young people struggle to find representations they can relate
to in their search for spirituality. Certainly Alma Lopez's "Our Lady"
is such a search and it is a beautiful and powerful representation. This creative
representation is not trashing any Catholic symbol at all. Moreover if we
look at centuries of traditional church art, it is filled with virgins who
display parts of their bodies, in particular in the paintings of the lactating
In any event, it seems to me that the symbol of the Virgin of Guadalupe has moved from the sacred (where it is safely housed in churches) into the public. Mexico made her its national symbol, dressing her in white, green and red, the Farmworkers Union put her on a banner. In Mexico on the 12 of December people dress their children up as Juan Diego and women dress as La Virgen. She has moved into the economic realm also, you can find her on mouse pads, t-shirts, lowriders, pop-up books, and as advertisement for commercial products. Even the members of the Guadalupe parish wear t-shirts with the image on it. She has moved into popular culture.
With such unfortunate statements as yours it
is no wonder that intelligent people who would like to think and judge for
themselves are moving away from the Catholic Church, as are young people.
I don't think the church can afford to continue to be so limited and narrow-minded
about change and to continue to censor the world, particularly a world that
is striving to find meaning in a misogynist system. Moreover I find it truly
striking that people who profess to be Christians use threatening language
(as has been used towards the artist and the museum), and have displayed incredible
bigotry (callers have been told that if they are Jewish or Protestant they
cannot make their opinion known).
As an educator and I hope someone that knows
something about the importance of the Catholic faith in the creative representation
of Chicana/o artists and writers, I would be happy to meet with you or to
send you information about these positive transformations that are taking
place. And I would hope that you would reconsider your harsh statements.
Dr. Tey Diana Rebolledo
Regents' Professor of Spanish/
The University of New Mexico
Subject: Virgin of Guadalupe
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 20:36:59 -0700
From: "R & M Stoddard" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I saw the exhibit at the Folk Art Museum in
Santa Fe. I was not at all offended. Don't let the bigots get
Mary Ann Stoddard