Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Our Lady & Queer Saints art attacked as blasphemy - Show support now!

“Our Lady” by Alma Lopez

Conservative Catholics are attacking “Our Lady and Other Queer Santas (Saints),” an art show and speech by Latina lesbian artist Alma Lopez at University College Cork in Ireland June 23-25.

Encuentro (Encounter)
by Alma Lopez
They launched a censorship campaign asking the university to cancel the events. (Update June 24: They are also picketing the exhibit! More info at end of this post.) Join me in supporting this brave artist whose art embodies God’s all-inclusive love and heals the split between sexuality and spirituality.

The art exhibit includes the controversial “Our Lady,” which shows the Virgin of Guadalupe in a bikini made of roses, held up by a bare-breasted butterfly. Lopez will be in Ireland to talk about “Our Lady and Other Queer Santas” (Spanish for “saints”) and sign copies of her new book “Our Lady of Controversy: Alma Lopez's 'Irreverent' Apparition” at the university’s conference on Chicano/a culture.

Death threats, censorship efforts, and violent protests brought international attention to “Our Lady” when it was first shown in 2001 -- and the right wing is at it again now.

Lupe and Sirena in Love
by Alma Lopez
They have organized a “Please Stop This blasphemy!” campaign, urging people to send the university a message that concludes: “In my opinion, these are blasphemous events that offend Our Lady’s spotless purity, insult Catholics and undermine God’s natural order. To avoid such grave blasphemy, offense and scandal, I respectfully urge you to cancel these events.”

This censorship campaign is all over the Internet. I say it’s time to show support for this brave artist who is re-envisioning the saints for us!

I urge you to join me in sending messages of support. Here is my open letter to University College Cork:
___
Dear University College Cork,

I am delighted and deeply grateful that your university is hosting “Our Lady and Other Queer Santas” by Latina lesbian artist Alma Lopez.

I am the founder of JesusInLove.org, which supports LGBT spirituality and the arts. I speak for many when I say thank you for showing the work of this brave artist who is re-envisioning the saints in life-giving new ways. Queer Christian images are needed now because conservatives are using religious rhetoric to justify discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Some denounce her art as blasphemy because it differs from traditional images. Others, myself included, experience it as a blessing that enhances Christian faith by embodying God’s wildly inclusive love for all. Lopez is healing the divide between sexuality and spirituality.

It’s important to imagine Our Lady and other Christian figures in new and different ways because it empowers people to grow in their relationship with each other and with God.

“Our Lady and Other Queer Santas” is a holy event that upholds Our Lady’s message of sacred empowerment, affirms LGBT Christians and embodies God’s love for all. In the name of religious and artistic freedom, please do not give in to critics who want you to cancel these events.

Thank you for your courage and vision.

Sincerely,

Kittredge Cherry
Founder, JesusInLove.org
Author, Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More
___
You can email the university at: hispanicstudies@ucc.ie. Or use the forms set up by the conservatives and CHANGE their messages at:

American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP)

America Needs Fatima

Please leave copies of your messages here as comments, or email them to me.  Let our voices be heard!

The conservatives also picketed an exhibit of Lopez’ “Our Lady” last month in the “Contemporary Coda” show at the Oakland Museum of California.

The Irish show includes other prints and new paintings by Lopez, who was born in Mexico and raised in Los Angeles. She co-edited her new book with UCLA professor Alicia Gaspar de Alba. The two women were married in 2008, during the brief period when same-sex marriage was legal in California.

For more info about Lopez and the “Our Lady” protests, please check these links:

Artist’s website: almalopez.net

Our previous post: Queer Lady of Guadalupe: Artists re-imagine an icon

Special thanks to Alma Lopez for permission to share her art, and to Xochitl Alvizo for alerting me to the latest protests.

UPDATE 5 on July 5, 2011:
Thousands of negative emails compromised the university’s email system, but the conference went on as scheduled with 50 attendees. Alma Lopez is back from Ireland. All the supportive emails, including 5 from friends of the Jesus in Love Blog, are posted now on her website, almalopez.net. For a detailed update, see our new post: “Blasphemy update: Queer Our Lady artist thanks supporters.”

UPDATE 4 on June 27, 2011:
A long and eloquent statement by artist Alma Lopez was published in the Irish Examiner. She addressed many issues, including one that has been mostly ignored here -- the image as a symbol of Chicana/o pride and resistance to conquest. Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to a Mexican in 1531 (a decade after the Spanish conquistadors.)  Here are a few highlights:

"I’ve taken away the heavy robes that the traditional image wears because I wanted to show the miracle of the roses that were the proof of the Virgin’s apparition to Juan Diego... More than a religious icon, the Virgin of Guadalupe is a revolutionary image of indigenous resistance to colonisation and genocide.”

You can read her whole statement in this article:

Never intended to offend, says ‘Our Lady’ artist (Irish Examiner)

UPDATE 3 on June 24, 2011:
Counter-demonstrations are being planned by the atheists now. Once again a complex debate has been oversimplified into religion versus LGBT people. All people of faith get demonized, and the reality of LGBT Christians is ignored. I’m so glad that friends of this blog are voicing support from a spiritual and religious viewpoint. You can read the news report here.

Atheist Society to hold counter-demonstration against exhibition protesters (Cork Student News)

UPDATE 2 on June 23, 2011:
Protesters picket UCC as artist defends image (Irish Examiner)
The Irish Examiner reports that religious protestors picketed, the university said the art show will go on, the artist defended her work, saying “I love women, just as I love the Virgin of Guadalupe. Our Lady was my way of communicating my love and respect for all women, including the Holy Mother.”

You can see a photo of protesters picketing on this conservative blog:
http://thoughtactioneire.blogspot.com/2011/06/catholics-at-ucc.html

UPDATE 1 on June 23, 2011: Today’s news reports say that an Irish bishop denounced the Alma Lopez exhibit by saying, “Respect for Mary, the mother of God, is bred in the bones of Irish people and entwined in their lives. It is regrettable and unacceptable that this exhibition seeks to portray the mother of God in such an offensive way.” For more info, click these news links:

Bishop's anger as portrait of Mary in a bikini goes on show at university (Herald)

Cork bishop criticises ‘offensive’ Mary image (Irish Examiner)

___
Related links:

Were some Catholic saints transgender? Berkeley show raises eyebrows (Religion News Service)

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22 comments:

Sage said...

I'm in. I WILL do this. Thanks Kitt!

KittKatt said...

Go for it, Sage! Thanks for being a sacred activist for artistic and religious freedom.

Sage said...

Yes, certainly Kitt.

An added incentive for me is the fact that all, yes every single one of the people who defriended me on facebook because of Christian images I placed on my blog, were catholic priest friends or friends who are former catholic priests. They viewed these pieces as being blasphemous and they defriended me without even asking what my perception of the message and purpose of the pieces were. My frustration was amplified by the fact that each of these individuals had been friends of mine for more than 30 years and were absolutely fully aware of my activism around these issues. It wasn't as if I developed this sense overnight. But now I had a blog as a vehicle to express my beliefs and this was the problem for them. As long as my beliefs were never expressed tangibly, they were alright having this "eccentric" and "edgy" friend. So it really seemed particularly petty and dysfunctional to me and energized me to bring the issue of religious freedom even more strongly to the forefront of my consciousness.

Turtle Woman said...

Sage, it makes me wonder who real friends are sometimes. It is always a kind of disconnect in a world of straight people who often either pretend to be ignorant or willfully choose to not know what my views are. And loosing friends who don't really get you is a step to freedom, even though it is painful, it is the real truth. Anyway, I really love your insights and opinions!

Yewtree said...

Sorry to hear that Sage.

There is no right not to be offended. What is sacred to one person can often be offensive, confusing or bemusing to someone else.

These images reclaim something lost, and are beautiful.

Trudie said...

Apparently my first post didn't get accepted? Anyway, I did modify the letter on the website as follows, and hopefully it got sent off:

To University College Cork:

I am delighted that Alma Lopez, a self-avowed lesbian who depicts Our Lady of Guadalupe in a bikini is scheduled to speak at your University and to display this wonderfully courageous work for public viewing.

I understand that Alma Lopez will talk about "Our Lady and Other Queer Santas," and will also sign copies of her splendid book called “Our Lady of Controversy: Alma Lopez's ‘Irreverent’ Apparition,” which has that same innovative and challenging view of Our Lady of Guadalupe on its cover.

Recently in Mexico, the "home" of Our Lady of Guadalupe", I discovered a wonderful statuette of a Nursing Madonna riding a donkey. I acquired this lovely image, titled Her "Our Lady of Travels to Life with Reality." Although intelligent and reverent people perceive the wonderful beauty of this representation, prudish and narrow minded people saw some sort of insult to God’s natural order. What could be more natural, or honest, than this? To support Ms. Lopez is a similar act of courage and truth.

Sincerely,


Trudie Barreras

KittKatt said...

I just updated this post with new info:

Today’s news reports say that an Irish bishop denounced the Alma Lopez exhibit by saying, “Respect for Mary, the mother of God, is bred in the bones of Irish people and entwined in their lives. It is regrettable and unacceptable that this exhibition seeks to portray the mother of God in such an offensive way.” For more info, click these news links:


Bishop's anger as portrait of Mary in a bikini goes on show at university (Herald)

Cork bishop criticises ‘offensive’ Mary image (Irish Examiner)

Many thanks for all your letters and comments! I will comment back soon in more detail.

KittKatt said...

Sage, I honor you for transforming the pain of lost friendships into action by expressing your beliefs on behalf of others. It’s upsetting to hear that all the people who defriended you for your LGBT-positive material were priests or ex-priests. As with Father John McNeill, it wasn’t the fact that he was a gay priest that got him ousted from the Jesuits, but the fact that he TALKED HONESTLY about being a gay priest. There is so much pressure, inside and outside the church, not to “flaunt it.” I hope you know that you have new friends (including me) who are glad that you are speaking out.

Turtle Woman, I see that you have also experienced the pain of lost friendships. But as you say, it can be a step toward freedom.

Yewtree, thanks for your comments and for sending a letter of support. It’s interesting that you see this art as reclaiming the past rather than a bold move toward the future… I suppose that both are true!

Trudie, thank you for posting a copy of your letter. You make a powerful connection by comparing Alma Lopez’ Our Lady to the nursing Madonna statue that has also shocked people. I will send Alma a copy of this and any other letters that are forwarded to me or posted here.

For those who haven’t seen the nursing Madonna statuette that she discusses, see our previous post Nursing Madonna honors body, spirit and women

JCF said...

My message (to the two hate petitions):

"Ignore the ignorant bigots: support this FAITHFUL art

To University College Cork:

I want to express my solidarity with you, as you face this attack by ignorant bigots.

They CLAIM to speak for ALL Catholics, ALL Christians, when they're really just a TINY minority of reactionaries who try to be "even more Catholic than the Pope" (which is tough to do w/ the current Bishop of Rome, but somehow they succeed).

They are "sound and fury, signifying nothing." They are the last of a dying breed of fearful hate-mongers. They may threaten you, but if you stay true to Art AND to Faith, you and your principles will LONG outlive them.

Keep the Faith!

An actual Catholic (by God's GRACE---which the creators of this hate campaign try to shut out),
JC Fisher"

Sandi said...

Kitt,

Thank you for giving us this information. I can't write much this evening, but so many Catholics have, for years, thought of Mary as a distant Queen of Heaven, not to mention the Mediatrix of All Graces, but not as a real woman who lived a real life. I hope to write to the college as well.

Blessings,

Sandi

KittKatt said...

Hot news flash from the Irish Examiner: Conservative Catholic protestors are picketing, the university said the art show will go on, and the artist defended her work, saying “I love women, just as I love the Virgin of Guadalupe. Our Lady was my way of communicating my love and respect for all women, including the Holy Mother.”

I added this link to the news report to the original post, and will continue updating as events unfold.
Protesters picket UCC as artist defends image (Irish Examiner)

You can see a photo of protesters picketing on this conservative blog:
http://thoughtactioneire.blogspot.com/2011/06/catholics-at-ucc.html

JCF, what a great letter! It’s especially powerful to hear your voice as a Catholic who supports this art, since the opposition is coming from Catholics. I hope you are right that the “fearful hate-mongers” are truly “a dying breed.” I assume that you sent this to the university, but I will forward a copy to the artist too.

Sandi, I’m glad to hear your voice here. I know that you are interested in women’s spirituality, and the opposition to this art seems to be mostly about showing Our Lady as a real woman, not about the lesbian or queer aspect. I affirm what artist Alma Lopez says in the link above, “I don’t consider women’s bodies offensive, crude, or impure.”

The exhibit is set to open within the next 24 hours. Prayers for peace may be appropriate.

Jim said...

I also wrote the university expressing support for the exhibit and artist.

FWIW
jimB

Counterlight said...

Here is what I sent to the Hispanic Studied Dept. on their "comments and queries" link:

Just a note to congratulate you on your current exhibition, to thank you for your insight and courage, and to support Alma Lopez. As an artist who has found his work featured for attack on right-wing websites, you should send your critics the same message that I send mine, "Thanks for the free publicity." Keep in mind that the Vatican, especially the Sistine Chapel, swarms with homoerotic imagery. Both Ms. Lopez and myself make art that is not intended to demean anyone, but to find a new imagery for the Christian faith that speaks to actual experience, rather than relying on Timeless Tradition Once Received By All The Saints in the form of Heinrich Hofmann (19th century) or Carlo Dolci (17th century).
Best wishes and deepest thanks to the Hispanic Studies Department at the University College Cork, Ireland.

--Douglas Blanchard

KittKatt said...

Counter-demonstrations are being planned by the atheists now. Once again a complex debate has been oversimplified into religion versus LGBT people. All people of faith get demonized, and the reality of LGBT Christians is ignored. I’m so glad that friends of this blog are voicing support from a spiritual and religious viewpoint. You can read the news report here.

Atheist Society to hold counter-demonstration against exhibition protesters (Cork Student News)

Special thanks and welcome to Jim, the most recent person to announce sending a letter of support. Bravo! I believe that you are new to the Jesus in Love blog, and we are most glad to have you with us.

Sage said...

Thank you for your words and support Turtle Woman, Yewtree and Kitt. Thankfully, by the time I experienced this event (just several weeks ago) I had reached a point in my life where i realized very deeply that the truth sets me free and had already experienced very painful life lessons showing that living my truth often leads to broken relationships. Still, i would be lying if I said I was not at least moderately shocked and definitely hurt by the actions of these men, even while having genuine compassion for them.

KittKatt said...

Thank you, Doug, for sending your letter of support to the university. (I missed seeing it when wrote my previous comment.) You’re able to write from the perspective of one artist supporting another, and the historical references are priceless. You’re certainly right about the Sistine Chapel. Alma Lopez’ Our Lady is probably less erotic than some of the Sistine Chapel. Maybe conservative Catholics find it more acceptable to see male bodies semi-nude than female bodies semi-nude?

Based on these comments, I count at least 6 friends of this blog who have joined me in sending letters of support. Hallelujah!

Anonymous said...

I went to see the exibit today. It is not up to much really. it certainly is not the Virgin Mary

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

The art of Alma Lopez is under attack because it dares to communicate a message about women in general and Mary in particular which the church hierarchy wishes to suppress.

It is a message about the right of women to claim ownership of our own bodies. It is a message about the power of a woman's sexuality and sensuality and how that is a vehicle of spirituality.

It is, in my mind, a way to heal the ancient rift between sexuality and spirituality by unveiling that power hidden for centuries behind long white and blue robes….

This is art. It is, for me, iconic. As such, it is an icon, a window into The Divine which provides a way to deepen my spiritual relationship with God and others through the Theotokos (God-Bearer).
___

The words above are highlights from “Blasphemy!” a reflection on Our Lady by Elizabeth Kaeton at the Telling Secets Blog. In addition to being a friend of Jesus in Love, Elizabeth is an Episcopal pastor who was raised Catholic with Our Lady as the ideal of womanhood. You can read the whole post at this link:

http://telling-secrets.blogspot.com/2011/06/blasphemy.html

(posted by KittKatt on behalf of Elizabeth)

JCF said...

"it certainly is not the Virgin Mary"

The BVM told you so, Anon? O_o

KittKatt said...

Nice quip, JCF, in reply to Anonymous. I decided to approve the anonymous negative comment because 1) The commenter actually saw the show (although we can’t verify that) and 2) The commenter makes the valid point that the blasphemy claims that began the international uproar were a big over-reaction.

KittKatt said...

A long and eloquent statement by artist Alma Lopez was published in the Irish Examiner. She addressed many issues, including one that has been mostly ignored here -- the image as a symbol of Chicano pride and resistance to conquest. Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to a Mexican in 1531 (a decade after the Spanish conquistadors.)

Here are a few highlights:

"I’ve taken away the heavy robes that the traditional image wears because I wanted to show the miracle of the roses that were the proof of the Virgin’s apparition to Juan Diego."

"For me as a Mexican-born Chicana, the Virgin of Guadalupe is an important cultural image that I grew up with in my family and in my community, and that graces the walls of my own home. More than a religious icon, the Virgin of Guadalupe is a revolutionary image of indigenous resistance to colonisation and genocide.”

You can read her whole statement in this article:

Never intended to offend, says ‘Our Lady’ artist (Irish Examiner)

Otherwise, I assume that no news is good news. The exhibit should be over by now, and I will hope for more info from Alma Lopez after she returns from Ireland.

DavidW said...

Blessings to you, my lesbian sister! As a gay musical artist myself (accomplished, professional flutist) - and highly evolved human being - I congratulate you and your beautiful works of artistry! I say: "Keep Peaceful - and - Carry Forward"! Peace!