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Our Lady of Controversy

Alma López's “Irreverent Apparition”

Edited by Alicia Gaspar de Alba and Alma López

Publication Year: 2011

Months before Alma López’s digital collage Our Lady was shown at the Museum of International Folk Art in 2001, the museum began receiving angry phone calls from community activists and Catholic leaders who demanded that the image not be displayed. Protest rallies, prayer vigils, and death threats ensued, but the provocative image of la Virgen de Guadalupe (hands on hips, clad only in roses, and exalted by a bare-breasted butterfly angel) remained on exhibition. Highlighting many of the pivotal questions that have haunted the art world since the NEA debacle of 1988, the contributors to Our Lady of Controversy present diverse perspectives, ranging from definitions of art to the artist’s intention, feminism, queer theory, colonialism, and Chicano nationalism. Contributors include the exhibition curator, Tey Marianna Nunn; award-winning novelist and Chicana historian Emma Pérez; and Deena González (recognized as one of the fifty most important living women historians in America). Accompanied by a bonus DVD of Alma López’s I Love Lupe video that looks at the Chicana artistic tradition of reimagining la Virgen de Guadalupe, featuring a historic conversation between Yolanda López, Ester Hernández, and Alma López, Our Lady of Controversy promises to ignite important new dialogues.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Series: Chicana Matters

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

My darling Alicia is an awesome writer, professor, and editor. On April 6, 2001, Chicana Matters Series co-editor Antonia Casta

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Our Lady of Controversy: A Subject That Needs No Introduction

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pp. 1-12

In the beginning of a new millennium, Our Lady appeared in Santa Fe during Holy Week. Her appearance caused passionate discussions throughout the Americas. Hundreds met in a geographic space called Holy Faith to discuss and debate her contemporary apparition to a Chicana artist named Alma, a resident in the City of Angels.”1 ...

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1. The Artist of Our Lady (April 2, 2001)

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pp. 13-16

On Wednesday, April 4, at 10 am at the Museum of International Folk Art, the governing board of New Mexico’s state museum system will consider removing an artwork that has off ended some Roman Catholics in New Mexico. Cyber Arte is scheduled through October 28, 2001, and features four contemporary ...

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2. It’s Not about the Art in the Folk, It’s about the Folks in the Art: A Curator’s Tale

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pp. 17-42

This chapter is part testimonio and part scholarly research. As such I will start by sharing a few anecdotes about my experience at the University of New Mexico (UNM) and how it led me to where I am today. As a UNM graduate student in the interdisciplinary Latin American Studies Program, I was taught to think critically ...

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3. The War of the Roses: Guadalupe, Alma L

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pp. 43-68

Santa Fe is a place inherently riddled with paradox and opposition: tradition versus the avant-garde in the arts to centuries-old Spanish Catholicism versus the infringement of outsiders and secularism. These forces came to a head in 2001 with Alma López’s Our Lady. In September 2000, the Museum of International Folk Art ...

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4. Making Privates Public: It’s Not about La Virgen of the Conquest, but about the Conquest of La Virgen

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pp. 69-95

What happens when controversy over an art piece in a museum develops in an environment redolent of religious tradition, cultural lifeways and manners, and extreme wealth or poverty? These are the historical contexts in which the controversy that developed over Alma López’s Our Lady must be read. ...

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5. Art Comes for the Archbishop: The Semiotics of Contemporary Chicana Feminism and the Work of Alma L

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pp. 96-120

The Virgin of Guadalupe is omnipresent in Chicano/a visual space.1 She is painted on car windows, tattooed on shoulders or backs, emblazoned on neighborhood walls, and silk-screened on T-shirts sold at local flea markets. Periodically, her presence is manifested in miraculous apparitions: on a tree near ...

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6. Queering the Sacred: Love as Oppositional Consciousness in Alma López’s Visual Art

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pp. 121-147

A sign of transnational solidarity, La Virgen de Guadalupe is the patron saint of Mexico and the Americas, as well as a political banner for Chicano and Mexican populations subjected to colonization, racism, and economic dispossession. Indeed, she has many meanings that, as Luz Calvo suggests in ...

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7. The Decolonial Virgin in a Colonial Site: It’s Not about the Gender in My Nation, It’s about the Nation in My Gender

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pp. 148-164

Alma Lopez’s digital print titled Our Lady offers a decolonial methodology for Chicanas who have reclaimed La Virgen de Guadalupe and reinscribed her with queer desire and pleasure. The epigraph exemplifies a decolonial critique of traditional gender roles pervasive in colonial, patriarchal ideologies. ...

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8. It’s Not about the Virgins in My Life, It’s about the Life in My Virgins

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pp. 165-194

On March 25, 2006, while millions of her undocumented children marched for immigrant rights in cities across the United States, Mexico’s Virgen de Guadalupe broke out of her ecclesiastical closet to join an impassioned group of Chicana, Latina, and Mexicana lesbians and queer allies as we marched in the third ...

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9. Do U Think I’m a Nasty Girl?

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pp. 195-211

I’m sure that many queer folks have memories of confronting a sexuality for which one does not yet have words. I remember those moments in northern New Mexico in the 1980s, like watching Some Like It Hot with my mom for the first time. On the one hand, I was dumbfounded by Marilyn Monroe’s je ne sais quoi. ...

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10. Devil in a Rose Bikini: The Second Coming of Our Lady in Santa Fe

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pp. 212-248

On Sunday, April 1, 2001, Journal North, a Santa Fe newspaper, published a very telling cartoon by Jon Richards. The cartoon shows a caricature of Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan standing next to an Ayatollah Khomeini–like figure, the image of Alma López’s Our Lady in the background. The men appear to be looking ...

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11. It’s Not about the Santa in My Fe, but the Santa Fe in My Santa

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pp. 249-292

I was born in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico.1 My family migrated to the United States when I was four years old. I grew up on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border with the image of La Virgen de Guadalupe in my home. We traveled to Mexico at least once every other year, usually during Christmas vacation. ...

Appendix: Selected Viewer Comments

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pp. 293-310

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About the Contributors

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pp. 311-314

Luz Calvo (luz.calvo@csueastbay.edu) is a professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies at California State University, East Bay. She received her PhD in history of consciousness at University of California, Santa Cruz. Her research focuses on Chicano/a visual culture, queer theory, and critical race psychoanalysis. ...


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pp. 315-322

E-ISBN-13: 9780292734869
E-ISBN-10: 0292734867
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292719927
Print-ISBN-10: 0292719922

Page Count: 344
Illustrations: 12 color and 34 b&w illus., DVD
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Chicana Matters

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Subject Headings

  • López, Alma (Alma Lorena), 1966- Our Lady.
  • López, Alma (Alma Lorena), 1966- -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Guadalupe, Our Lady of -- Art.
  • Mexican American art -- Public opinion.
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