Lupe Still Leads to Controversy


Reimagining icons of the Catholic church is always controversial in the eyes of some. That’s what the artist Alma López encountered with her daring art work of la Virgen de Guadalupe. But times they are changing and we have to look at our own popular culture heroes to empower people.  This doesn’t mean that such art disrespect tradition, but has more to do with the reality of the human condition in space and time. The book takes the controversy to analyse the complex intersectionality of cultural politics, historical memory, and gender dynamics that informs exhibition practices and public reception.

Our Lady of Controversy
Alma López’s “Irreverent Apparition”

Edited by Alicia Gaspar de Alba & Alma López

An exceptionally important and powerful collection of essays, opening new interpretive paths and new tools for the activist-scholar-student. This is the most serious consideration of the oeuvre of Alma López published to date.”

—Charlene Villaseñor Black, Associate Professor of Art History, UCLA

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).

Our Lady of Controversy is a useful book for scholars and arts aficionadas aficionados. In addition to insight and history set forth, there’s fun for all in the chapter titles. There’s “Death Comes for the Archbishop” and “Do U Think I’m a Nasty Girl?”

It takes a rare editor to allow such liberties, but then Gaspar de Alba’s introduction, “Our Lady of Controversy: A Subject That Needs No Introduction”, kicks off the collection with understated aplomb. Chapter 2, Nunn’s “It’s Not about the Art in the Folk, It’s about the Folks in the Art: A Curator’s Tale.” Chapters 7 and 8, gender / nation, life / virgins, López’s final essay santa / fe feature the same figure, chiasmus.

 It’s humor, gente. With a point. Ever the English professor, Alicia Gaspar de Alba prefaces a long explanation of the device to illustrate her motive behind the motif:

 By focusing on one controversial piece of art in one small exhibition in Santa Fe, the chapters show the complex intersectionality of cultural politics, historical memory, and gender dynamics that informs exhibition practices and public reception…they also use Our Lady as a case study for examing the different chiasmi—or opposing ideas—that took center stage in the controversy.

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.

Alicia Gaspar de Alba is a Professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies, English, and Women’s Studies at UCLA. Her nine previous books encompass historical novels, poetry, short stories, and a cultural study of Chicano art.

Alma López is an artist, activist, and visual storyteller originally from Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico.

Source: University of Texas Press, April 2011, excerpts from La Bloga, May 2011

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~ by eneryvibes on 1,May 13, 2011.

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