Monday, 28 May, 2001, 11:48 GMT 12:48 UK
Artist defends bikini-clad Madonna
Students view the controversial collage
Alma Lopez says the picture shows a strong woman
The artist who depicted the Virgin of Guadalupe
wearing a floral bikini has defended her work, saying she does not see anything
wrong with it.
Mexican-born Alma Lopez outraged some Catholics
by showing Mexico's national representation of the Virgin Mary with her hands
on her hips and being supported by a bare-breasted angel.
Ms Lopez says she intended Our Lady, on display
in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to show a strong and beautiful woman.
But many do not see it that way. The Most Rev
Michael J Sheehan, archbishop of Santa Fe, said Ms Lopez had turned the Holy
Virgin into "a tart".
"I see this woman's legs and her belly
and [the angel's] breasts, and I don't see anything wrong," she told
the Los Angeles Times newspaper.
Some detractors have staged protests at Santa
Fe's Museum of International Folk Art, saying the work is sacrilegious.
More than 750 people attended a public meeting
about the piece in April before the museum decided it would not remove Our
Lady - but cut the length of its exhibition by four months as a compromise.
Ms Lopez said two artists who spoke in her defence
at the meeting were intimidated and harassed.
Demonstrators were "threatened" by
her portrayal of the Virgin as a contemporary Latina, she said.
The Virgin of Guadalupe is one of the country's
strongest indigenous religious icons.
"Although this situation is very difficult
and painful, I think that at some level there must be something positive about
the dialogue it has prompted," Ms Lopez wrote on her website.
"This controversy must be about more than
a small digital print. Among other issues, perhaps it's about local politics?
Gentrification? Lack of opportunities for local artists? Fear of Latina women's
liberation? Fear of change?"
She likened her experience to that of fellow
Latina artist Yolanda Lopez, who received bomb threats for showing the Virgin
of Guadalupe wearing low-heeled shoes.
She also said many churches house images of
nude male angels and "practically naked" Crucifixion images of Jesus.
The Cyber Arte: Tradition Meets Technology exhibit,
which includes the collage, will now close on 28 October "in the spirit
The museum views the decision to cut the show
short 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.