C u l t u r e W a t c h

Bikini-clad Virgin Mary stirs protest

A New Mexico museum defended a depiction of a bikini-clad Virgin Mary after the archbishop of Santa Fe added his voice to attacks from Roman Catholic activists against the artwork.

The controversy swirls around "Our Lady," a digital photograph that also includes a bare-breasted angel. The angel is holding up the Virgin Mary in a stance reminiscent of traditional pictures of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Santa Fe's Museum of International Folk Art said it had no plans to remove the picture from a year- long special exhibition, as demanded by protesters. "We certainly did not anticipate such a strong reaction," museum director Joyce Ice said. "And I would hope that people are willing to continue their discussions in regard to the role of art and how it plays into community values and the freedom of expression."

Archbishop Michael Sheehan weighed in with a statement criticizing the picture as "yet another trashing" of Catholicism" that "shows the insensitivity to a large segment of Santa Feans and imprudence in the administration of a state-funded institution."