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.
by Alma Lopez
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
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.
Author, Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More
You can email the university at: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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:
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)
Were some Catholic saints transgender? Berkeley show raises eyebrows (Religion News Service)