Critics Protest, Say Jesus Art Pornographic

Artwork Currently Being Displayed At Loveland Museum

Dozens of people protested in front of the Loveland municipal museum Friday, denouncing a piece of art on display as pornography.

The controversial artwork is a panel that they say depicts Jesus Christ in a sex act with a man and the words "Orgasm" written in the back. In the picture, Jesus is also a woman, wearing a dress.

The panel, which measures about 7 by 7 inches, is part of a 12-panel color lithograph by Stanford University professor Enrique Chagoya. The work, titled "The Misadventures of the Romantic Cannibals," includes comic book characters, Mexican pornography, Mayan symbols and ethnic stereotypes.

A city councilman and dozens of people, mostly members of a Roman Catholic church, are waging a campaign to have it removed.

A group of about 30 people stood in front of the museum Friday morning, holding signs that read "Stop Porn in Loveland" and "Stop Smut in Loveland."

Councilman Daryle Klassen wanted to put the issue on the council agenda earlier this week but didn't get enough votes.

"This is smut," Klassen said in Tuesday's council meeting. "It is pornography, and that's not what our community is about."

However, Councilwoman Joan Shaffer said there were no complaints at the Sept. 10 opening of the exhibit at the Loveland Museum Gallery.

Marcus Thompson, who works with adults with developmental disabilities, visited the museum with one of his clients Sept. 22, and said the work violates Colorado law that protects children from obscenity.

“I was outraged. I understand abstract nudity, and I have an appreciation for all kinds of art. However, you cross the line with depiction of an explicit sexual act," Thompson told The Loveland Reporter-Herald.

Loveland Police Chief Luke Hecker said the police department received several calls from citizens suggesting the exhibit warranted a criminal investigation. But Hecker said city attorney John Duval had sent him a written opinion that the artwork did not meet the obscenity criteria specified in a city ordinance.

According to the Loveland City ordinance obscene material was defined as: "anything tangible that is capable of being used or adapted to arouse interest (that) ... The average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest in sex; depicts or describes patently offensive representations or descriptions of ultimate sex acts, normal or perverted, actual or simulated, including sexual intercourse, sodomy, and sexual bestiality, or patently offensive representations or descriptions of masturbation, excretory functions, sadism, masochism, lewd exhibition of the genitals, the male or female genitals in a state of sexual stimulation or arousal, or covered male genitals in a discernibly turgid state; and taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value."

Loveland, a city of about 66,000, is known for its promotion of art, including sculptures throughout the city in public places and art shows. The exhibit that includes Chagoya's work features prints by 10 artists who have worked with printer Bud Shark of Lyons.

Chagoya said in a phone interview with The Associated Press Friday that the artwork is a critique of religious institutions and not meant to demean people's beliefs. The Stanford University professor says there were no incidents last year when the work titled "The Misadventures of the Romantic Cannibals" was shown in Denver.

Susan Ison, the city's cultural services director, said Chagoya describes what he does as being "reverse anthropology." She said the artwork is up for interpretation.

For Krista Conley, the issue isn't complex. She visited the gallery to voice her objections to Chagoya's artwork.

"This is cut and dry," Conley said. "This a sexual act being depicted in the artwork and it is not a gray area. It is very black and white as to what is going on in the picture."

In the picture, Jesus is also a woman, wearing a dress.

Additional Resources: