Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Daily Lobo The Independent Voice of UNM since 1895
Latest Issue
Read our print edition on Issuu

Museum opts to postpone hearing on `Our Lady'

Overwhelming response forces board to move meeting

SANTA FE - Numerous State Troopers and Santa Fe Police stood shoulder-to-shoulder blocking the entrance to a community hearing on a bikini-clad depiction of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the Museum of International Folk Art Wednesday morning.

The 10 a.m. hearing called by the Board of Regents of the Museum of New Mexico sought public input on the continuing exhibition of Alma L¢pez's "Our Lady" in the exhibit "Cyber Arte: Tradition Meets Technology."

The hearing was supposed to be held in the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture next door to the folk art museum and the room quickly filled with more than 300 people. Santa Fe Police and State Troopers blocked another 200 people who sought entrance to the hearing, citing orders from the fire marshal.

Outside, larger-than-life pictures of the Virgin were held above the heads of people holding hands and chanting the rosary. Other attendants blocked from entering held signs that read "Protect Free Speech, Keep The Exhibit Up."

In response to the barred and vocal crowd at the museum front doors, the board announced at 11 a.m. it was rescheduling the hearing for a later date, maybe as early as Monday. A representative for the regents said they hoped to find a larger venue to accommodate all those wishing to participate. State law requires 72 hours of notice to relocate public meetings.

"Our Lady" is L¢pez's computer-generated collage presenting a flower-draped Virgin of Guadalupe that many in the local community are calling an outrageous desecration of the Virgin's image. Santa Fe Archbishop Michael Sheehan said he finds the image insulting and it should be removed from the museum's display.

"I don't believe I'm promoting censorship," Sheehan said. "My objection is on the basis of the insult to the religious beliefs of a very large number of people."

Sheehan said it would be different if L¢pez's art was displayed in a privately-funded museum, "but such as picture has no place in a tax-supported museum."

L¢pez defended her piece by saying nothing is wrong with depicting the Virgin as "a strong woman, like us."

In response to public outcry over L¢pez's art, nine Santa Fe legislators wrote a letter to the Museum of New Mexico that states the Board of Regents' decision on the matter could jeopardize the museum's funding.

Signed by nine democrats, the March 27 letter states that nothing in L¢pez's exhibit "remotely compares to the purpose for which museums have been established." Signers include Sens. Roman Maes, Nancy Rodriguez and Phil Griego; Reps. Luciano Varela, Max Coll, Patsy Trujillo Knauer, Debbie Rodella and Speaker of the House Ben Lujan. In a statement written after the letter, Lujan carefully backed away from the funding issue.

"You get onto dangerous ground when politicians begin to dictate directly or through threatened action what can or cannot be exhibited in museums," Lujan wrote. However, Lujan said that while museums have the right to display art, "legislators also have the right to express our profound disappointment and disapproval of exhibits we find offensive, which is what we have done."

Enjoy what you're reading?
Get content from The Daily Lobo delivered to your inbox

Depictions of Our Lady of Guadalupe began in the 1500s when the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to Juan Diego in Mexico. Jacqueline Orsini Dunnington, an author of books on the Virgin of Guadalupe, said the barefoot, midriff-baring depiction of Mary is "nothing outrageous."

"It's a challenge to old images people have in their mind about Mary," Dunnington said.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Daily Lobo