Protesters Rally Against 'Pornographic' Jesus Print at Colorado Museum

Exhibit at community Museum/Gallery decried as porn, hate speech


HOLLY NOTE: After debating the wisdom of posting such a disgusting article, I felt compelled as it is yet another sign of End Times and the lateness of the hour. What sickened my heart further is that Loveland is the town we moved to from Kansas City nearly 30 years ago. At that time, Loveland was a small retirement community boasting a scant 30,000 people. It was a quiet, family-centered town tucked in one of the most picturesque areas of Colorado. Susan Ison, director of the Loveland Museum, was our neighbor and still resides on my old street.

Stan and I had occasion to drive through Loveland in August and we scarcely recognized it. Highway 34, which marches through Loveland, is the western gateway into Rocky Mountain National Park. That same formerly barren highway taken east is now a concrete corridor to a shopper's paradise.

From its early days Loveland's two cemeteries sat on the town's outskirts. Now they bisect the center of this community east and west. Growth undeterred simply built around them. Driving through the town you'll see parks, golf courses, several lakes and 300 lovely bronze sculptures displayed in some of the most unexpected places. Loveland was a special draw for sculptors the world over as it supplied special foundries required to cast their works.


In 30 years, Loveland has more than doubled in size. Many are California transplants. Not surprisingly, the "artist" at the heart of this controversy is based in San Francisco. His other career as a Stanford professor underscores his ultra-liberal leanings. He, too, is a transplant – from Mexico City and in 2000 he became an American citizen. Hardly someone to brag about, Enrique Chagoya's "artwork" is so offensive that it has garnered national attention. From the L.A. Times, to the Denver Post to the San Jose Mercury News and United Press International (UPI) – all tend to minimize both the offense and the resulting protest.

Yes, the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and personal expression, but it doesn't guarantee that good judgment or decency will be exercised.

Had Islam's Muhammad been depicted as the recipient of homosexual oral sex as is Jesus in Chagoya's lithograph, Muslims would have gone into instant behead mode. They would have issued a fatwa as they did for the Dutch cartoonist, Gregorius Nekschot that dared insult Muslims.

If we still lived in Loveland, we would have joined the outcry. This is yet another example of a town's, no – a Nation's – progress in retrograde.




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October 2, 2010
By Maria Schmitt
The Coloradoan; Ft. Collins, CO

More than 60 people turned out Friday morning to protest one piece in an art exhibit at the Loveland Museum/Gallery in a city nationally recognized for its art-friendly culture.

Holding signs decrying the museum and the City Council and calling the exhibit pornographic, some protesters prayed the rosary out loud while others waved as cars drove by on Lincoln Avenue, honking their horns.

Photo: Mary Stawinski of Loveland and her nephew, Zach Reak, 5, join others in picketing outside the Loveland Museum/Gallery on Friday in objection to what they feel is pornographic artwork at the gallery. (Reporter-Herald/Jenny Sparks)

The image in question is a depiction of Jesus Christ involved in what some say is an act of oral sex. (HOLLY NOTE: If you view this piece, there is no question what is going on.

Part of a folded-paper lithograph and woodcut panel depicting cultural icons, the piece, "The Misadventures of the Romantic Cannibals," was created by California-based artist Enrique Chagoya, a professor at Stanford University.

Chagoya is one of 10 artists with work displayed in the Museum/Gallery's current show, called "The Indelible Ink of Bud Shark," featuring pieces the artists created with the help of Shark, a master printmaker and Lyons resident. There are 82 pieces in the gallery show.

Loveland City Council-woman Donna Rice attended the protest. Rice and Councilors Daryle Klassen and Hugh McKean all voted earlier this week to put a discussion of the piece on a Tuesday Council agenda, but four votes would have been needed to do so.

"This offends me to my toes," Rice said outside the Museum/Gallery. "I don't want something this disgusting depicted. I don't even want to call it art."

Rice and Klassen both said they want the piece removed.

The Loveland Museum and Gallery is a municipal department, funded by the city. Its curator and director are both city-funded positions. The Museum/Gallery draws private donations, as well.

When Museum/Gallery staff contacted Shark about possible print-making activities, he freely offered the exhibit for display, said Maureen Corey, curator for the city's Cultural Services Department.

Image: Video grab of Loveland Museum's director.

The Museum/Gallery paid for installation costs and did not receive any grant money for the exhibit, she said. Corey views the exhibit as an opportunity to share "wonderful art."

Still, Rice objected to Chagoya's piece in the overall exhibit.

"We don't want Loveland to be X-rated," she said.

City religious leaders also spoke out against the artwork.

"It depicts clearly a picture of our Lord Jesus Christ engaging in an oral sex act with another person," said Deacon Ed Armijo of St. John's The Evangelist Catholic Church. On Thurs-day, Armijo and several residents visited the Museum/ Gallery to voice their opposition to the exhibit.

"To my Catholic community, I am going to get the word out to come down here and protest this kind of display of pornography," Armijo said.

Susan Ison, Loveland's director of Cultural Services, helped coordinate displays in the gallery. She said both the museum's board and the city's cultural services board have made the decision to keep the piece on display.

During Friday's protest, a small sign was placed near the entrance to the exhibit reading: "The Loveland Museum/ Gallery is a forum for a broad range of perspectives and images. These galleries contain art that may evoke strong reactions."

"There was no discussion about the pieces being offensive," Ison said of the decision to bring in the exhibit. "We did not expect any issues to be involved with this."

Before people began protesting the artwork, Ison said 600 people viewed the exhibit, which opened Sept. 11 and is scheduled to run through Nov. 28.

Photo: Loveland Councilman Daryle Klassen

The same exhibit was displayed in Denver's Museum of Contemporary Art a few years ago, she said, and Chagoya's work has been shown throughout the country.

Ison said Chagoya calls his work "reverse anthropology" and in it depicts well-known cultural icons in ways that might elicit a response from the viewer.

The controversial image that appears to be Jesus is part of the same work showing icons such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Lucille Ball.

Ison said she is not personally offended by the piece, but many protesters outside the Museum/Gallery on Friday called the image blasphemous, a hate crime, pornographic and homosexual.

Dorothy Monsma, a Loveland resident since 2000, and her husband, Tim, joined the protest after hearing about Klassen's remarks earlier in the week, in which he called the piece "smut."

"My opinion is that it's not only smut, it's sacrilegious," Dorothy Monsma said. "It should be removed."

Monsma said that, if the same drawing had been done showing Islamic prophet Muhammad, Muslims might have responded with outrage and probably violence.

She often visits the Museum/Gallery with her grandchildren, she said, but she wouldn't do so if something like Chagoya's art is displayed.

"When we first moved here, art in Loveland was so beautiful and children-friendly," she said.

Friday night as people milled around the Museum/ Gallery, Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, talked about the controversial artwork and offered his thoughts on the lithograph.

"Quite frankly, I find it profane and I find it pornographic," he said. "I don't think it's at all appropriate for a publicly funded facility."

Such protests of artwork are not new in Loveland, a community known for its extensive sculpture displays.

In 2006, people protested a sculpture created by Loveland artist Kirsten Kokkin called "Triangle," featuring three nude figures standing in a circle holding hands.

HOLLY NOTE: This piece was subsequently removed in 2007.

After the statue was placed along a busy street, officials decided to relocate it to a less-conspicuous location in the Benson Sculpture Garden.

On Friday, Corey stood by a small table in the Museum/ Gallery where a line of visitors waited to leave comments in a comment box.

"Work that may be provocative is work that we've had here before," Corey said. "Part of what art does is (evoke) strong emotions."

Kathryn Shimmura, a Loveland resident and artist, sat on a bench in the gallery Friday morning. She said she is not offended by the piece.

"I'm not into judgmental thinking," Shimmura, said.

Some of the exhibit's protesters carried signs that asked the city to protect its citizens' religious beliefs.

"It's not their job to protect our religious beliefs," Shim-mura said. "If you don't like it, don't look at it."

Shimmura said she thought many of the protesters were "very narrow-minded people without much exposure to art" and that Chagoya had the freedom of speech to create his own art.

Councilwoman Joan Shaffer, who vocally disagreed with Klassen during Tues-day's Council meeting, said the piece is challenging and provocative.

"I think that we as individuals make our own decisions on when and how we want to be challenged," she said.

Shaffer said she has had interesting and fruitful discussions about the piece with others after viewing it.

For the issue to come before the City Council, a majority of the Council would have to vote for it to become an agenda item.

Shaffer said that she expects a large crowd of exhibit protesters to attend Tuesday's regular meeting and address the Council during the public comment portion of the meeting.

If the council members see fit and vote, a discussion about the piece could be placed on the following meeting's agenda, but no action on possible removal of the piece could be decided the same night because notice of the meeting must be made available to the public.

http://www.coloradoan.com/article/20101002/LOVELAND01/101002008