Wednesday, 23 May, 2001, 10:02 GMT 11:02 UK
Bikini-clad Madonna escapes censors
Students view the controversial collage
The collage was deemed offensive by critics
A collage depicting the Virgin of Guadalupe
clad in a floral bikini will stay on display despite protests from some Catholics.
Complaints had been made to the Museum of International
Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico, calling the picture offensive.
A committee investigated complaints but has
ruled Our Lady by Los Angeles artist Alma Lopez can remain.
However, to appease protestors the exhibition
in which it features will be cut short.
The work under fire shows the Virgin Mary wearing
a digitally imposed two-piece swimsuit, displaying her midriff.
Hundreds of demonstrators turned up at a public
meeting in April to vent their anger at the picture, which they deemed sacrilegious.
The board of the Museum of New Mexico convened
to decide the fate of the portrait.
Lopez, herself a catholic, said she had portrayed
the Madonna as a strong, independent woman and had not intended to offend.
She was pleased with the compromise reached
by the board.
She said: "I almost see it as the only
fair decision for them, to acknowledge that some people in the community were
offended, but that the work needed to remain on exhibit."
The Cyber Arte: Tradition Meets Technology exhibit,
which includes the collage, was due to close in February 2002.
Joyce Ice, head of the museum, said it will
now close on 28 October, "in the spirit of reconciliation".
The museum views their decision as "walking
the middle ground" without censoring the art.
More than 35 New Mexico churches are dedicated
to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The phenomenon began in 1531 when the Virgin Mary was said to have appeared to Juan Diego, a Christian Aztec, near Mexico City, prompting stories of miracles.