April 28, 2001
Subject: Re: Reflectioos
Date: Sat, 28 Apr 2001 13:05:28 -0400 (EDT)
From: Roberta Fernandez <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Alma Lopez <almalopez@EARTHLINK.NET>
I printed out all the e-mails in your website
and wound up with a mountain of pages. Last night I read all the material
and found it to be a very interesting documentation of a moment in time in
I am considering using some of the material
in an introductory class on Latino literature and culture. My hesitation in
doing so, however, is that your site shows a lop-sided version of the controversy.
It seems to me that you should also include the letters that are not in support
of your work. For example, I recall Octavio Romano's lengthy contribution
to the controversy via the Chicle listserve, and he did have some valuable
comments about artists vs poor people in New Mexico. I spent a good amount
of driving time thinking about this aspect of the controversy. In fact I feel
that I still have to work out this aspect of the issue.
Another point that I have considered at length
is what people are reading into your image of Guadalupe. Clearly she is not
wearing a bikini nor even a swimming suit for that matter. I see only that
parts of her anatomy are covered with roses via the digital method of shifting
images from one space to another. Neither is she in any kind of pose that
can be considered provocative. Personally I do not see any disrespect shown
to Guadalupe in the imagery you have used. But neither do I see what many
others are seeing: the image of a strong woman. Does the fact that Guadalupe
looks at the viewer enough to make her a strong woman? I do not think so.
Ester Hernandez's karate-kicking Guadalupe conveys a strong woman. I see your
Guadalupe as simply an updated version of a cultural icon who is neither passive
nor strong. She just is. And the angel has simply changed gender, also in
an updated version. The angelito with his masculine anatomy has become an
angelita with her feminine anatomy. That is all.
But then I am a museum person who loves the
avant-garde and cutting edge art, including digital works of art. But only
a minority of us can say this. The great majority of people everywhere are
perplexed with the avant-garde, trying their best "to read" it in
the most elementary way they were taught when they were children.
This brings me back to the question of elitism
and "the people," which I think is the point that Romano was trying
to make. In the years of the Movimiento, we valued "community outreach"
(to use an academic and a museum world term) but as a people we seem to have
lost some of the fervor associated with "community outreach" during
the years of the Movimiento when we were envisioning a new world.
Suddenly I began to envision cadres of mixed
groups of artists, writers, academics who have not lost the faith, and Chicanos/Chicanas
at large going out knocking on doors and dialoguing about who we all are and
what Guadalupe means to the Mexican and Mexican American people, past and
present. I began to envision people sitting in the cocinas chatting over coffee
attempting to make connections with our brothers and sisters, listening to
their hurt over something that perplexes them and disturbs their sensibilities,
then trying to explain how we see not only your piece, Alma, but other pieces
of art as well. The only ones reaching out to our nuevomexicano brothers and
sisters for the moment seem to be the priests (who may not all have the same
agenda) and the caudillos who want to keep them under their fist.
Also at heart here is regional disparity: Angeleno
culture vs Nuevo Mexicano small town culture, the avant garde view vs traditional
views of life.
Interestingly, the conflict seems to be understood
in different terms also by the recently immigrated Latin Americans on Univision
who communicate with the great masses of our people in Spanish (including
me). On the evening news in Univision on the day that the gathering of people
at the museum in Santa Fe had to be cancelled because of the riotous behavior
of those who showed up, the locutor from Argentina, Enrique Whatshisname,
made an incredibly ignorant commentary about the fact that since the representatives
of the church in New Mexico had gotten into the controversy, this meant that
the museum would have to make serious concessions. Once the Church speaks,
the State must listen! he implied. I wondered how it was possible for Univision
to have such an uneducated commentarista on its staff. Should those conservative
Latin Americans in Univision not be up to date on the separation of Church
and State in the United States, the country in which their "canal"
is based? [Does this sound like immigrant-bashing?]
So many issues to consider. As I said in the
opening of my letter, Alma, the controversy centered around your piece reflects
who we are in a brief moment in time.
Subject: Re: Reflectioos
Date: Sun, 29 Apr 2001 06:28:26 -0700
From: Alma Lopez <email@example.com>
To: Roberta Fernandez <firstname.lastname@example.org>
thank you for your comments. I've included most of what I have received. I am not on the chicle site, so if you have anything else from chicle or elsewhere, please forward to me. I have included every single "oppositional" email that I have received, and most of the "supportive" emails, except for the ones that seem to be more personal or only mention the issue while really discussing something else.
One lesson I have learned from this is that as an artist I may have had an intended meaning, but the viewer/audience interprets the image in their own way, which includes what is in their experience and heart.
Many friends in NM who are artists/writers/students/professors or supporters are part of those conversations because "gente" is their families. The two community meetings organized by the museum were also intended to be community discussions where everyone can express their views and hopefully hear another worldview. However, I'm not too sure how successful they were. The first was rescheduled after only 30 minutes because the space was not large enough to accomodate the 600 or 700 people. The second was in a larger space, but some reported that less people attended the second meeting. This meeting was dominated by people who were bussed in from their churches, and people present in support felt intimidated and harassed when they were brave enough to speak.
The main organizers are men, and include two priests and the archbishop. And they bus in mothers and grandmothers. People are feeling a threat to how they have organized their lives, and this image represent a new way of thinking for them (liberated woman and technology). The exhibition itself is female: the director is a woman, the curator is a Latina, the four artists are Latinas. The church is guilty for recently reported sexual offenses toward children and young women, which the current archbishop came to clean up.
We are living history. We are experiencing growing pains.