Thursday, October 04, 2001

Racy virgin collage draws protests

News-Journal wire services

SANTA FE, N.M. -- Critics of a collage showing the Virgin of Guadalupe with a bare midriff have asked a judge to order it taken off the wall of a state-run museum. They contend officials didn't follow museum policies and state law when they decided to leave the work by Los Angeles artist Alma Lopez hanging at the Museum of International Folk Art. "This was a last resort," said Jose Villegas, one of those who filed the request Tuesday. State District Judge James Hall scheduled a hearing Oct. 10.

The digital image "Our Lady" depicts the Virgin of Guadalupe -- a representation of the Virgin Mary -- clad in a flowery, two-piece, swimsuit-like outfit. Opponents say it is culturally insensitive and disrespectful of the Roman Catholic religion. The artist has said she meant no disrespect. She said she is portraying the Virgin as a strong, independent woman. The work is slated to be taken down at the end of October, four months earlier than originally scheduled. Museum officials made that decision in May, saying it was a concession to the opponents.