Saturday, March 8, 2008

Blasphemous "Art" Missing From Nominally Catholic U of Dallas

Note: The Anti-Catholic administration, the heretical ilk that is so common these days, will try to pass of blasphemy as academic freedom and artistic expression when in reality it is trash, which is hopefully where this garbage ended up. The arguments for keeping this garbage on display on a Catholic campus could just as easily be used to promote pornography, which is about what this thing was. That the college president couldn't bring himself to exercise any degree of leadership or authority is no surprise. He is the the typical spaghetti-spined Catholic college president, whose stature the common worm gives visible similitude.

Missing artwork of Virgin Mary as stripper stirs University of Dallas

Stolen print of stripper Virgin pits school, artistic freedom

12:50 AM CST on Saturday, March 8, 2008

By SAM HODGES / The Dallas Morning News

Looking back, trouble seemed likely when an artwork depicting a stripper as the Virgin Mary went on display last month at the University of Dallas.

And trouble sure came, though the artist says she was making a point about perceptions and didn't intend anything sacrilegious.

The artwork - a print - prompted complaints from students at the Catholic college in Irving. Then, on Feb. 14, it was discovered missing from a school gallery.

It still hasn't been found, and the case is being investigated as a theft by campus police. Meanwhile, students, alumni and others have been weighing in, though some never got a chance to see the print and have had to rely on descriptions.

University president Frank Lazarus, in particular, has been criticized by alumni who feel he erred by not ordering the print removed after he got a look at it.

"It was imprudent of him to leave it up," said Tom Lagarde, a member of the Class of '97 and secretary of the school's national alumni board.

"Regardless of what the artist's message was... the means she used were illicit, at least for Catholics."

Dr. Lazarus didn't respond to requests for an interview. But earlier he released a statement denouncing the apparent theft and acknowledging the school's struggle to balance academic and artistic freedom with preservation of "Catholic character."

"A number of mistakes were made, and there are lessons to be learned here," he said.

The print is the work of Joanna Gianulis, a senior art major at Murray State University in Kentucky. It came to UD as part of an exhibit of Murray State students' work, following an exhibit at Murray State of art by UD students.

Ms. Gianulis, reached Friday by e-mail, said she has no digital image of the print. Others who have seen it say it includes a veiled young woman wearing pasties and a G-string with money stuck in it.

Asked for her description, Ms. Gianulis said:
"The work is a black and white woodcut relief print depicting a scantily clad stripper wearing a veil and holding a rosary. Other details in the work are scrolls saying 'Sinner or Saint?' in Spanish and referencing the Virgin [of] Guadalupe, and also a snake, some white lilies, a pair of scales, and also a small image of a bar of soap opposite a bottle marked 'xxx.' "

The Virgin of Guadalupe is a revered image to many Catholics, particularly Hispanics who accept the legend of the 16th-century appearance of Mary, the mother of Jesus, to a Mexican peasant.
Dallas is a center of Virgin of Guadalupe devotion, and its downtown cathedral is named for her.
But Ms. Gianulis said she didn't meant to offend Catholics in Dallas or anywhere else, and didn't even know UD is a Catholic school.

My note: It's not implausible that she didn't know it was a Catholic school. Probably most of the student are confused by that too since this is one of the modern ilk of Catholic college where most outward signs of piety have been removed in the name of secular tolerance.

The purpose of the print, she said, is to raise questions about who is perceived as saint and who as sinner.

"How do we know that an exotic dancer is sinful?" she said in a prepared statement for the UD art department. "What if she has the best intentions and strives only to help those in need? Many single mothers are in this position and that is another reason why I chose to reference the Virgin Mary, because she was another woman who was in a tough position and probably received much criticism because of it."

'Noble intentions'
The print, along with others from Murray State, was exhibited at UD beginning Feb. 8.
Jeanne Luthi, a senior art major, helped install the exhibit. She recalls seeing Ms. Gianulis' print and saying to herself, "Oooh, there might be a problem with this." But looking further, she said, she could see the artist had social commentary in mind and was using techniques familiar in contemporary art.

Juergen Strunck is the UD art professor who helped arrange for the exhibit and was there for the installation. He said that if he had interpreted the work as sacrilegious or pornographic, he would have considered not displaying it. But he saw it as a serious work, so he went ahead.
"I'm a strong believer in academic freedom," he said, adding that he had organized about 150 exhibits in nearly four decades of teaching at UD.

A few days passed without trouble, but soon students like Joshua Neu, a junior majoring in English and philosophy, saw the print and became upset.

"The university was wrong to exhibit it," he said in an e-mail. "The university ought not display images that make profane that which the institution holds sacred."

Dr. Lazarus was away from the school when the work was first exhibited, but when he returned he learned of complaints. He went to see for himself, and in his statement said that while "the artist surely has noble intentions" he found the print objectionable.

But Dr. Lazarus also had academic freedom concerns. Instead of having the work removed, he and other officials decided to put up signs at the exhibit warning that some images might be considered offensive.

His statement says he was considering further restrictions on the afternoon of Feb. 14, when Mr. Strunck discovered the print missing.

Campus police quickly opened an investigation but have no leads.

Student uproar
"I have a hard time believing some person off campus would come and remove the artwork and not be noticed," Mr. Strunck said. "It would have to be someone within the university community."

John Bloch is a senior who covered the exhibit controversy for the student newspaper. He couldn't recall anything causing more talk on campus and noted that the paper had seen a heavy response in letters to the editor from students, alumni and others.

Mr. Bloch said campus opinions vary, but some students were offended enough by the image to argue the theft was justified.

But Ms. Luthi said UD students need to be exposed to contemporary art, even if some of it is upsetting.

"People read [philosopher Friedrich] Nietzsche in the core curriculum, and that's fairly anti-Christian," she said. "It just feels like the visual arts are being held to a completely different standard."

Dr. Lazarus has said the controversy may prompt the school's Center for Christianity and the Common Good to hold a forum for discussion and debate.

Meanwhile, the exhibit in question has closed, and the art – minus the missing print –has gone back to Murray State.

There, Ms. Gianulis struggles with her feelings.
"While I am very glad that my artwork is causing people to think about how powerful art can be, I am also sad because I don't feel that many people gave the artwork a chance," she said. "They didn't try to understand what I was actually trying to say."

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