Another nontraditional and provocative depiction of Our Lady Of Guadalupe, a revered icon among Catholics and in Mexico, is facing criticism and a demand that it be removed.
The piece by California artist Paz Winshtein, at the Eye on the Mountain art gallery as part of a new exhibition opening today that features different takes on the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, depicts her as naked under a shawl with a necklace of skulls around her neck.
The work titled “The Three Goddesses in One” is called “blasphemous, profane, offensive, irreverent” and an insult to the faithful in a letter to the gallery owner from Santa Fe resident Jose L. Villegas Sr., who signed the letter as “an advocate to protect and defend Our Lady of Guadalupe.”
Villegas, who has served as a law enforcement chaplain in Santa Fe, said he intends to try to rally others against display of the image. He said his letter was hand-delivered to the gallery Thursday.
Winshtein, 30, of Los Angeles disagreed with Villegas’ take on his work when interviewed at the gallery Thursday.
“I understand how it would make him (Villegas) uncomfortable, and that’s what art is supposed to do,” said Winshtein. “It’s not meant to be blasphemous. It’s meant to be incorporating different religious traditions.”
Villegas also objects to what he descibes as a “demonic shape” around Guadalupe in Winshtein’s piece, referring to horns at the top of the image’s black outline.
Gallery owner Rachel Houseman was not at the gallery Thursday and Winshtein, who had not seen the letter before it was shown to him by a reporter, did not know if Houseman had seen it.
“None of the artwork is intended to be insulting and we came up with the idea for the show in reverence of Our Lady of Guadalupe,” said artist Aaron Jones, Houseman’s partner.
This is not the first time an unusual take on Our Lady of Guadalupe has drawn criticism in Santa Fe. In 2001, a controversy blew up into national news and drew about 500 people protesters in front of the Museum of International Folk Art calling for removal of a painting by California artist Alma Lopez. Her piece depicted Our Lady of Guadalupe in a revealing rose-petal two-piece garment.
Villegas referred to that case in his letter, saying “hundreds of Roman Catholics in NM and across the nation were offended by this cyber art exhibit that was sponsored by a paid public institution in Santa Fe, NM.”
Last year, the Santa Fe Reporter got criticism from some after an issue with a cover featuring a cartoon of Guadalupe in a bikini. The Reporter this week reproduced Winshtein’s piece as part of its arts calendar.
“Here we go again with another painful insult to our faith, our traditions, our culture, our religion, and our spiritual beings,” Villegas’ letter states. “I don’t think we can handle another insult like this again.”
He added: “I will not sit and wait for the freedom of expression and/or the freedom to expression argument become a solidification for justification on your part for allowing this offensive and religious insult to our faithful.”
Winshtein said at the gallery, “Basically I understand how seeing it in different ways makes some people offended and some people very intrigued, so I understand how I could offend him, especially if he’s very religious and takes a lot of this iconography to be a literal representation of his faith. But to me it’s more of a symbolic representation.” As an artist Winshtein, goes by his first name Paz, which means peace in Spanish.
“I didn’t mean it to be offensive,” he said. “I did mean it to be provocative and make people think so if that’s what it’s caused that’s good.”
The exhibition is listed as “12 artists, one sacred icon” on a flyer promoting the show.