Religion in Society

Woman Destroys Controversial Jesus Art in Colorado

| by Mark Berman Opposing Views

LOVELAND, Colo. --- A woman has put an end to a controversial piece of religious-themed art at an exhibit in Colorado -- she simply destroyed it.

She is charged with felony criminal mischief for using a crowbar to smash the plexiglass in front of the art, then ripping up the lithograph with her hands.

Problems began almost immediately after the show opened at the Loveland Museum/Gallery last month. The piece in question is called "The Misadventures of Romantic Cannibals," by an artist named Enrique Chagoya.

The 12-panel foldable lithograph features comic book characters, Mexican pornography, Mayan symbols and ethnic stereotypes. But it's the last panel on the bottom right that has people angry -- some say it shows Jesus receiving oral sex. (The artist and curator say it doesn't.) Please be forewarned -- you may find the image below offensive:

People have been protesting outside of the gallery every day, but police say a woman named Kathleen Folden went one step further on Wednesday.

Art dealer Mark Michaels told Denver's 9News that the woman was screaming "How can you desecrate my Lord?" as she broke into the case.

She grabbed the artwork, but he said he stopped her. "We were just coming in and were standing at the door and I heard a large — like a thump — and somebody yelled 'Oh, no!' And I looked up and I saw a nail-puller-type crowbar slamming the Plexiglass case several times until she broke it," Michaels said.

"And I ran over there, and by the time I got there she had reached in and grabbed the print and was ripping it up, so I pulled her away from the print and put her in the corner and then the police came."

Chagoya said the lithograph was one of 30 prints in a limited-edition run.

"It's sad and upsetting," Chagoya said Wednesday night. "I've never had this kind of violent reaction to my art. Violence doesn't resolve anything."

Chagoya said the work is supposed to be a commentary on child abuse committed by priests in the Catholic Church.

"My work is about critiquing institutions and politics," he said. "I wasn't trying to portray Christ; it's a collage of cutouts from different books."

Bud Shark, who assembled the display for the museum, released a statement denouncing the attack.

"(The attack) is the direct result of the inflammatory and false descriptions of the piece in the press and by those protesting its inclusion in our exhibition. The controversial image has been demonized as 'pornographic,' 'obscene' and 'depicting Jesus in a sex act' when none of this is true."

The local Catholic Church and some politicians wanted the work removed. The gallery pointed out that no public money was used for the exhibit.