The Irish Times - Friday, June 24, 2011
Cork bishop criticises 'Our Lady in bikini' exhibit


A CONTROVERSIAL exhibit deemed “offensive” by the Bishop of Cork and Ross will open at UCC today.

The exhibition by Mexican-born artist Alma Lopez features a digital image of Our Lady of Guadalupe wearing a floral bikini and with her hands on her hips.

UCC college authorities said the exhibit will go ahead and the artist said she had never intended to offend.

“Having given due consideration to all viewpoints, UCC has confirmed the conference will go ahead as planned and the image will be exhibited in a position where only those who personally choose to view may do so,” a college spokesman said.

“The artist has refuted any intention to offend, pointing out that she has publicly stated both in published work and on her website that her intention was to portray a strong ‘Chicana’ in a place of honour and respect that she deserves,” the spokesman said.

The concept behind the print is an examination of the expression of devotion through the mixing of traditional and high-tech materials, “offering a modern take on venerated figures like the Virgin of Guadalupe or the mainstream concepts of heaven and hell”, according to Lopez’s website.

Bishop of Cork and Ross Dr John Buckley said the image was offensive and unacceptable.

In a statement, the bishop said respect for religious beliefs must be central to modern society. He said many people were offended by the portrayal of the Mother of God in such a fashion. “True pluralism respects the beliefs of all faiths and does not seek to ridicule the faith and convictions of any believer,” the bishop said.

He said an inclusive society must show respect for the religious iconography of its citizens.

“We have seen the negative consequences that result from a lack of respect for religious beliefs in many cultures.

“Irish poets and culture held Mary in the highest esteem. It is regrettable and unacceptable that this exhibition seeks to portray the Mother of God in such an offensive way,” the bishop said.

Lopez’s art exhibition, titled “Our Lady and Other Queer Santas”, forms part of a weekend conference on Hispanic studies at UCC organised by the Mexican Studies Centre.