April 28, 2001

Subject: Re: Reflectioos
Date: Sat, 28 Apr 2001 13:05:28 -0400 (EDT)
From: Roberta Fernandez <robertaf@arches.uga.edu>
To: Alma Lopez <almalopez@EARTHLINK.NET>
CC: robertaf@arches.uga.edu


Hi Alma:

I printed out all the e-mails in your website and wound up with a mountain of pages. Last night I read all the material and found it to be a very interesting documentation of a moment in time in Chicana/Chicano history.

I am considering using some of the material in an introductory class on Latino literature and culture. My hesitation in doing so, however, is that your site shows a lop-sided version of the controversy. It seems to me that you should also include the letters that are not in support of your work. For example, I recall Octavio Romano's lengthy contribution to the controversy via the Chicle listserve, and he did have some valuable comments about artists vs poor people in New Mexico. I spent a good amount of driving time thinking about this aspect of the controversy. In fact I feel that I still have to work out this aspect of the issue.

Another point that I have considered at length is what people are reading into your image of Guadalupe. Clearly she is not wearing a bikini nor even a swimming suit for that matter. I see only that parts of her anatomy are covered with roses via the digital method of shifting images from one space to another. Neither is she in any kind of pose that can be considered provocative. Personally I do not see any disrespect shown to Guadalupe in the imagery you have used. But neither do I see what many others are seeing: the image of a strong woman. Does the fact that Guadalupe looks at the viewer enough to make her a strong woman? I do not think so. Ester Hernandez's karate-kicking Guadalupe conveys a strong woman. I see your Guadalupe as simply an updated version of a cultural icon who is neither passive nor strong. She just is. And the angel has simply changed gender, also in an updated version. The angelito with his masculine anatomy has become an angelita with her feminine anatomy. That is all.

But then I am a museum person who loves the avant-garde and cutting edge art, including digital works of art. But only a minority of us can say this. The great majority of people everywhere are perplexed with the avant-garde, trying their best "to read" it in the most elementary way they were taught when they were children.

This brings me back to the question of elitism and "the people," which I think is the point that Romano was trying to make. In the years of the Movimiento, we valued "community outreach" (to use an academic and a museum world term) but as a people we seem to have lost some of the fervor associated with "community outreach" during the years of the Movimiento when we were envisioning a new world.

Suddenly I began to envision cadres of mixed groups of artists, writers, academics who have not lost the faith, and Chicanos/Chicanas at large going out knocking on doors and dialoguing about who we all are and what Guadalupe means to the Mexican and Mexican American people, past and present. I began to envision people sitting in the cocinas chatting over coffee attempting to make connections with our brothers and sisters, listening to their hurt over something that perplexes them and disturbs their sensibilities, then trying to explain how we see not only your piece, Alma, but other pieces of art as well. The only ones reaching out to our nuevomexicano brothers and sisters for the moment seem to be the priests (who may not all have the same agenda) and the caudillos who want to keep them under their fist.

Also at heart here is regional disparity: Angeleno culture vs Nuevo Mexicano small town culture, the avant garde view vs traditional views of life.

Interestingly, the conflict seems to be understood in different terms also by the recently immigrated Latin Americans on Univision who communicate with the great masses of our people in Spanish (including me). On the evening news in Univision on the day that the gathering of people at the museum in Santa Fe had to be cancelled because of the riotous behavior of those who showed up, the locutor from Argentina, Enrique Whatshisname, made an incredibly ignorant commentary about the fact that since the representatives of the church in New Mexico had gotten into the controversy, this meant that the museum would have to make serious concessions. Once the Church speaks, the State must listen! he implied. I wondered how it was possible for Univision to have such an uneducated commentarista on its staff. Should those conservative Latin Americans in Univision not be up to date on the separation of Church and State in the United States, the country in which their "canal" is based? [Does this sound like immigrant-bashing?]

So many issues to consider. As I said in the opening of my letter, Alma, the controversy centered around your piece reflects who we are in a brief moment in time.

In Solidarity,

Roberta Fernandez


Subject: Re: Reflectioos
Date: Sun, 29 Apr 2001 06:28:26 -0700
From: Alma Lopez <almalopez@earthlink.net>
Organization: www.almalopez.net
To: Roberta Fernandez <robertaf@arches.uga.edu>
References: 1

Hola Roberta,

thank you for your comments. I've included most of what I have received. I am not on the chicle site, so if you have anything else from chicle or elsewhere, please forward to me. I have included every single "oppositional" email that I have received, and most of the "supportive" emails, except for the ones that seem to be more personal or only mention the issue while really discussing something else.

One lesson I have learned from this is that as an artist I may have had an intended meaning, but the viewer/audience interprets the image in their own way, which includes what is in their experience and heart.

Many friends in NM who are artists/writers/students/professors or supporters are part of those conversations because "gente" is their families. The two community meetings organized by the museum were also intended to be community discussions where everyone can express their views and hopefully hear another worldview. However, I'm not too sure how successful they were. The first was rescheduled after only 30 minutes because the space was not large enough to accomodate the 600 or 700 people. The second was in a larger space, but some reported that less people attended the second meeting. This meeting was dominated by people who were bussed in from their churches, and people present in support felt intimidated and harassed when they were brave enough to speak.

The main organizers are men, and include two priests and the archbishop. And they bus in mothers and grandmothers. People are feeling a threat to how they have organized their lives, and this image represent a new way of thinking for them (liberated woman and technology). The exhibition itself is female: the director is a woman, the curator is a Latina, the four artists are Latinas. The church is guilty for recently reported sexual offenses toward children and young women, which the current archbishop came to clean up.

We are living history. We are experiencing growing pains.