LOVELAND, Colo. – A piece of artwork denounced as obscene by church members and allegedly ripped up by a Montana woman using a crowbar won't be returned to display because of safety concerns, city officials said Thursday.
"The incident yesterday was very troubling and also very impactful on the city staff, volunteers and the public at the venue," said Rod Wensing, acting city manager.
Kathleen Folden, 56, of Kalispell, Mont., was arrested Wednesday on a charge of criminal mischief. Witnesses told police that she used a crowbar to smash glass shielding the print at the Loveland Museum Gallery and then tore part of it up.
Folden, a truck driver, told police that she drove from Montana and bought a crowbar in Loveland before going to the museum to destroy the artwork, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by The Coloradoan in Fort Collins.
Police said the damaged part includes what critics say was a depiction of Jesus Christ engaged in a sex act.
Museum visitor Mark Michaels told the Loveland Reporter-Herald that Folden screamed "How can you desecrate my Lord?" during the incident.
The artist, Stanford University professor Enrique Chagoya, told The Associated Press on Thursday that the work has been mischaracterized. He said while the part in question is suggestive, it's not graphic.
The panel includes figures cut out from a comic book, a head resembling Christ and a skeleton with a pope's hat.
"This is not Christ. It's a collage," Chagoya said. "What I'm trying to express is the corruption of the spiritual by the church."
The print was taken by police as evidence.
Folden was released on a $350 cash bond during a court appearance Thursday. Another hearing is set for Oct. 15.
The work that was damaged, "The Misadventures of the Romantic Cannibals," is a 12-panel lithograph that that includes comic book characters, Mexican pornography, Mayan symbols and ethnic stereotypes. It is part of an 82-print exhibit by 10 artists that have worked with Colorado printer Bud Shark that opened in mid-September.
Members of a local church have been among those peacefully protesting outside the city-owned museum for most of the work. A city councilman and some residents had demanded that Chagoya's work be removed, but the council decided Tuesday to leave it on display.
Some of the outspoken critics have condemned the attack on the artwork.
The museum has seen a significant increase in visitors since the controversy started, said Maureen Corey, the museum's art curator. Visitors include supporters and opponents of the piece.
"In my opinion, it's rather sad taking away people's freedom to see the art," Corey said.
Loveland police originally got reports of gunfire at the museum, but said it appears people mistook the banging of the crowbar against the glass for shots. No firearm was involved, police said.
Chagoya said he was sad and disappointed that the work, one of 30 limited prints, won't be on display again in Loveland.
"It will be a loss for everybody, not just for me, but for everybody that believes in the First Amendment," Chagoya said. Suppression of art and ideas is something that happens in totalitarian regimes, not this country, he added.