Offended artist

Artist Richard Maldonado talks about his painting of ``The Lady of Guadalupe'' on display in the lobby of RMCH. He has stong opinions about the controversy in Santa Fe about the depiction of the Virgin Mary.
Photo by Jerry W. Kelley

Artist opposes 'Bikini Virgin'
Elizabeth Hardin-Burrola
Special to the Independent

GALLUP — The furor over the digital image of the Lady of Guadalupe has extended far beyond the walls of the Museum of International Folk Art and the Santa Fe city limits. It has struck a chord with Richard Maldonado, a Gallup resident who shares at least one thing in common with the controversial Los Angeles artist Alma Lopez he has chosen the famous image of the Virgin Mary as a subject for his artwork.

That, however, is where Maldonado parts company with Lopez.

Maldonado has been following the art controversy since the Santa Fe museum put Lopez's computer generated image on exhibit. The image features a photograph of a model, portraying the Lady of Guadalupe, with a bare midriff and flowers covering strategic body parts. Like many who have protested the museum exhibit's inclusion of the piece, Maldonado is deeply offended by Lopez's image.

Maldonado, 54, contacted the Independent to express his views on the controversy because he had recently completed his own painting, "Our Lady of Guadalupe," which is on exhibit in the lobby of the Rehoboth McKinley Christian Hospital. The large oil painting, displayed in an ornate, gilded frame, took six months to complete.

Maldonado said his painting was created with reverence and devotion. His own mother died in 1960, he said, and since then, he has looked to the Virgin Mary as a personal mother figure. "I just love the lady," he said.

Maldonado is infuriated that Lopez, with her Hispanic Catholic upbringing, would portray the Virgin Mary in such a manner. "I believe in freedom of expression," he said, "but not that far. You have to show some respect."

Catholics believe that the mother of Jesus revealed herself to Juan Diego, an Aztec Indian peasant, at Guadalupe, Mexico, in December 1531. They believe her image miraculously appeared on the Indian's cloak, a garment that is still on display in the New Basilica of Guadalupe.

The Lady of Guadalupe's appearance was more as a native Indian woman than as a European looking Madonna; as a result, millions of Mexican Indian people converted to Catholicism after Juan Diego's encounter, and the Catholic Church eventually named her Patroness of Mexico.

According to Maldonado, he has been painting for only eight months; however, in that short time, he has created a number of religious paintings. A friend of his, Sonny James, draws most of the images, and Maldonado paints them.

Maldonado, retired for six years because of health problems, is on oxygen much of the time, has to have his blood drawn regularly and uses forearm crutches or a wheelchair for mobility. He has painted only religious subjects out of gratitude to God for helping him with his medical needs, he said.

"I always ask God for a lot of help, and he always seems to come through for me," he said.

Maldonado's painting will be on display at the hospital until July 2.