April 13, 2001

Subject: Re: [AztlanNet] Alma Lopez "E-mail" Update 4/9/01
Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2001 06:49:10 -0700 (PDT)
From: Aida Irizarry <aida1945@yahoo.com>
Reply-To: AztlanNet@yahoogroups.com
To: AztlanNet@yahoogroups.com

Good morning, everyone!

I finally had a chance to take a look at Alma Lopez' work on AztlanNet's site. Loved it because it was different. I don't think Alma meant to be disrespectful, only to express an artist's view, and we must respect her right to do so. Ignore that, and we trample on a basic right under our constitution: the freedom to express ourselves.

This, folks, is not like someone is crying fire! in a crowded theatre. It's art.


Subject: Re: [AztlanNet] Alma Lopez "E-mail" Update 4/9/01
Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2001 06:58:34 -0700 (PDT)
From: Aida Irizarry <aida1945@yahoo.com>
Reply-To: AztlanNet@yahoogroups.com
To: AztlanNet@yahoogroups.com

Alma, I read your comments below regarding how you feel about the persecution going. Well put, hermana Latina!  Far too many people still feel that a woman's voice should be squelched. This is not only happening in our Latino countries, but India, Pakistan, to mention a few.

Had Michaelangelo come down to earth today and done your painting, would those judging your painting feel the same way? I don't think so. Keep on painting, Alma, and remember one thing, when people criticize it's because they're seeing something that is hitting close to home. If a work of art, regardless the medium, doesn't awaken your passions, for better or worse, it isn't worth it. You've done a marvelous job!


Subject: Our Lady
Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2001 08:05:04 -0600 (MDT)
From: Pat Fairchild <fairchil@unm.edu>
To: <almalopez@earthlink.net>

Dear Alma Lopez,

I want to express my support of you, your art work, and the Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe. I am horrified by the reaction of some of my fellow New Mexicans regarding your art work at the museum.

I also paint santos; one of my works is at the Regis Santos Museum in Denver. As someone who is also not quite traditional, I want you to know that I am hoping for your success.

Best wishes,
Pat Fairchild


Subject: Free Speech Groups Encourage New Mexico Museum to Respect Artistic Freedom

Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2001 11:37:44 -0400
From: "Gary Daniels" <gdaniels@ncac.org>
To: <ncac@ncac.org>

Press Release - For Immediate Release - April 13, 2001

NEW YORK, NY -- A group of prominent free speech organizations are encouraging the Museum of New Mexico Board of Regents to uphold principles of artistic freedom as they prepare to discuss the fate of a controversial work of art in the Museum of International Folk Art.

"Our Lady," the artwork in question, is a digital collage in which the Virgin of Guadalupe is represented by the figure of a friend of the artist, hands on her hips and head raised, her robe open and revealing rose-laden undergarments.

According to López, the idea was to portray the virgin as a strong and nurturing woman, very much like the women in the community she grew up in, not to insult. However, a number of people have denounced the work as "sacrilegious" and "disrespectful," and called for its removal from the museum. So far, museum officials have said they have no intention of removing the work.

On Monday, April 16, 2001 at 10 a.m. there will a community meeting to provide an opportunity for the general public to be heard. The controversy has generated so much attention that an earlier meeting was rescheduled from April 4th because more than 600 people showed up at a meeting place with a capacity of about 300. New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson has weighed in, announcing his support for keeping the piece in the museum.

"We applaud the decision to hold a public meeting and engender a discussion on the value of artistic expression," said Svetlana Mintcheva, Arts Advocacy Coordinator at the National Coalition Against Censorship. "While debate is welcome, it is important to remember that this situation is not governed by "majority rule". It is our sincere hope that the Board will join with

Governor Johnson in supporting the museum and using this occasion as an opportunity to underscore the bedrock principle of the freedom to give voice to a wide diversity of ideas," added Mintcheva.

"Nationwide, we have noticed a disturbing trend in which artwork is challenged because individuals and groups deem it offensive," added Joan Bertin, Executive Director of the NCAC. "We call on all those faced with such situations to not sacrifice the right to free speech in an attempt to placate critics."

For more information contact:
Svetlana Mintcheva, Arts Advocacy Coordinator, National Coalition Against
Censorship - 212/607-8222 x23
Larry Siems, PEN American Center - 212/334-1660 x105
Chris Finan, President, American Booksellers Foundation for Free
Expression - 212/587-4025
David Greene, Executive Director, First Amendment Project - 510/208-7744
-- endit --


Subject: Fw: I SUPPORT Ms. Lopez' Our Lady
Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2001 14:04:23 -0600
From: Thomas G Lennox <tlennox@juno.com>
To: almalopez@earthlink.net

--------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Thomas G Lennox <TLENNOX@juno.com>
To: jice@moifa.org,tmnunn@moifa.org
Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2001 13:47:11 -0600
Subject: I SUPPORT Ms. Lopez' Our Lady
Message-ID: <20010413.134721.-386091.0.TLENNOX@juno.com>

Each of us sees the image that is Our Lady in a different way. Those individuals who take issue with Ms. Lopez' depiction have NO GROUNDS FOR COMPLAINT. This image is not obscene, and does not denegrate or betray insensitivity to any subgroup of the community, which should be the only grounds for examination of a work for inclusion in a public funded institution. The artist herself is Catholic and has expressed verbally her affection for the Virgin and her intent to increase the iconographic power of the Virgin to a larger community--which, if anything, should be cause for rejoicing to Catholics!

As a former museum curator, earlier in life, I strongly support you in your role of ensuring that all forms of art, including those that may be provocative, are displayed without compromise or censorship. This is your trust to the artists of history who strive to assist us, through their images, to know ourselves and each other better.

Thomas G. Lennox
Santa Fe, NM


Subject: Archbishop Sheehan & your work at MOIFA
Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2001 17:09:51 EDT
From: Tsalagi1313@aol.com
To: almalopez@earthlink.net

Dear Alma,

      In case you had not heard, Archbishop Michael Sheehan called the director of the Museum of New Mexico early in the week of April 9-13, trying to have your work removed.  It seems that Sheehan is trying to circumvent the public scrutiny & input that has been fothcoming in support of your work and the museum.  Even though the protestors led by Mr. Villegas and Bishop Sheehan are well-organized and were successful in shutting down the first public comment session, there is clearly a great deal of support for you here in New Mexico that is being voiced directly to the museum's governing body and directorial staff.  The director responded to Sheehan's underhanded request by saying that the museum had no plans to remove your work.

      You might also be pleased to know that our governor, Gary Johnson, has issued a statement in support of your work and the museum.  Johnson's relationship with the arts and cultural affairs in New Mexico is often very typically Republican insofar as he has cut funding to various groups in the past, but this is the same governor that fundamentally challenged Republican dogma through his stance on drug decriminilization.  Nonetheless, it is comforting that Johnson has made this statement - it may in fact help the museum's board of regents, appointed by the governor, stand firm in their stance to not take down "Our Lady."  

      Again, Sheehan's comments seem to be an attempt to circumvent the public's input and due process as defined by the Museum of New Mexico's governing body.  Remember, Sheehan was sent to New Mexico to clean up the mess created by priests who were sexually assaulting women and children in their parishes.  His attempt at back-room dealings indicates that the overwhelming public sentiment, as well as the stance of the Museum of NM & the Museum of International Folk Art, is unequivocally supportive of you, your work, and its continued exhibition.

Aaron Fry


Subject: Our Lady support
Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2001 20:02:47 EDT
From: AlmaGraphics@aol.com
To: <tmnunn@moifa.org>, <jeross@wilson.com>,<twilson@mnm.state.nm.us>, <jice@moifa.org>,<almalopez@earthlink.net>, <alex@nmcn.org>

To: Dr. Joyce Ice
Tom Wilson
Dr. Tey Marianna Nunn
The Regents of the Museum of New Mexico
Governor Gary Johnson
Alma Lopez

As one of the four artists, I am proud and honored to be a part of CyberArte: where tradition meets Technology. I have started a million letters, re-writing in my head, as this issue has grown and changed. I think it is important to remember that the title of the show is where tradition Meets technology. We are all the daughters of Hispanic culture and religion. This show is very important, because it does encompass the idea of tradition with a new aesthetic of technology. Most places that are daring enough to show digital art go for all the bells and whistles; Web based art, live video streaming, sound, and interactive multimedia real amusement park stuff. CyberArte is a grouping of four Hispanic women artists, who are all very different people, with different experiences and different ideas making art by merging personal occurrences, traditions and faith. Our similarities are that we all respect and love who we are, where we came from, and believe we have stories to tell. We just happen to be using the computer as a tool to transform our ideas.
The "Our Lady" controversy is a very surreal and personal experience. As an artist it is very hard to figure out how people respond to the images that I create. Sometimes people laugh, are moved or are bored. I truly do not know of an artist who intentionally would set out to offend, and certainly that would not be Alma Lopez. I think it is very interesting that Alma created this image 3-4 years ago, and that she has exhibited it other places and it has not created such controversy.

I have the highest regards for Dr. Tey Marianna Nunn, her work and who she is and the staff at the Museum. This is my first show in a museum and it has really set a precedent on how to be treated. How many state run museums, does the director {Dr. Joyce Ice] email the artists after the show has opened? Every bit of correspondence I have received from the museum, whether it is loan paper work or a call to see when my work would be delivered was warm, professional courteous and respectful.
It makes me proud to think that we have Dr. Tey Marianna Nunn representing New Mexico, as a curator of one of our state museums. Her decisions and choices need to be supported. I truly think she is the 5th artist of CyberArte. She has an incredible vision and sensitivity towards culture, art and new ideas.

Last year, I went to the opening reception of Sin Nombre, curated by Tey. It was one of the most amazing events I have ever been too. Here is a woman who created a history for a whole generation of hispano/hispana artists who had been forgotten, not only by their government but their culture too. That opening was special, to see the children and grandchildren of artists who are no longer with us, and of course to see the elderly artists, finally receiving long overdue recognition. Well, the same thing happened to me during our opening and talk. I thought the emotion, the exhilaration and unity that I had were part of the Sin Nombre opening was inherent to that specific group of people but at the CyberArte opening I realized it was all Tey's doing. She combines her knowledge, insight and understanding to create something so big and wonderful. I think we all felt such a sense of pride, and the importance of the show. In such a naïve way, the next step was that we hoped that after the opening, people would come see the show.
It is important to note that this show was receiving attention before the controversy began. The director of New Mexico CultureNet is committed to putting the whole show on the web as soon as he saw the show. There was press from National magazines and newspapers recognizing Tey's concept and other pieces by artist Alma Lopez. Once again, Tey is writing history. It has just been unexpected how it is all playing out.

As a taxpayer and someone who supports museums it angers me to think that Alma's piece could possibly come down. As an artist, is absolutely heartbreaking.
I want to thank those people who have come up to me to tell me that they weren';t sure about Alma's image but went to see the show, and really liked the show and had positive and constructive things to say. How seeing "Our Lady" even in the context of the show (not on a postcard mailer or TV) changed their interpretation, or how they compared it to Marion or Theresa';s work. I value these opinions because at least these individuals took the time to look at both sides and experience it for themselves, and make their own decisions.

On April 4th, a friend of mine who couldn';t get in to the first meeting was outside. He told me there was this obvious protester who needed to use the bathroom. Someone told her that she needed to go back to Folk Art museum for that. She responded.."oh, where is that?" That story really put in to perspective how crazy and surreal this whole thing is Another person I know was outside photographing, she is a 40-year-old born and raised catholic New Mexican, and she said the hysteria and anger felt cult like.

On Palm Sunday, I went to church. There were poster board signs lining the windows about wearing a blue ribbon for "Our Lady"; and calling your legislator.
This is the same church I got my first holy communion. A church that when I was growing up didn';t have any iconographic images. There was just a crown of thorns and a very modern Christ on the cross without a loincloth. Maybe my experience in church led me to the person I am today. A person that can separate that Alma's image is not to be worshiped or is any iconographic symbolic representation. That I actually take time and spend money visiting our state run museums and encourage people to think for themselves, to make rational choices. There are so many impassioned reasons I could come up with why the regents should make the decision to keep "our lady"; in the museum, but on the most basic level it is censorship, and you would be taking away choice and rights. All of the protestors have already made their decision. Either they don't want to pay their dollar on Sunday or they haven't gone to see the show because they never go to museums or, they don't exactly know what big building on the hill is MOIFA. By taking the piece down you are taking mine, my friends and family (all taxpayers) rights away, as well as the choice of all the future tourists who will be flocking to Santa Fe for Spanish and Indian Markets.

Thank you,
Elena Baca
Proud , Museum Supportin, taxpayin CyberArtist

Subject: more support
Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2001 19:19:54 -0600
From: Carla Lopez <carla@niti.org>
To: almalopez@earthlink.net

Alma Lopez, I went to the first meeting with a prepared statement to make in support of your work. I got there after the meeting had been canceled. I am a former Santa Fe Public Schools Board member (I lost my reelection bid in March 2001) and I am well known in Santa Fe. I have been making it very clear at every opportunity that I do not support this inquisition. I also spoke with Jose Villegas and told him that he and I are not on the same side of this one. I otherwise like Jose.

Here is my statement, it is short.

"Thank you for hosting this public hearing. My name is Carla Lopez. I am a lifelong resident of Santa Fe. I am Hispanic. I was raised Catholic. Unlike many who share my background, I find the image refreshing and nurturing. I respect each individuals right to honor their own beliefs. However, I do not support the position that any one belief has the right to call for the exclusive control of any images. I applaud the regents for your vision and leadership on this issue and I truly appreciate the courage it takes to stand firm in the face of passionate expressions of faith and culture."

I cannot be at the meeting on Monday. But I will continue to watch closely and also make my opinions known at every opportunity. With respect, Carla Lopez