FORT COLLINS, Colo. – A Montana woman accused of taking a crowbar to controversial artwork for religious reasons pleaded not guilty Friday.
Kathleen Folden, 56, a truck driver and grandmother from Kalispell, Mont., declined to comment during a court appearance in Colorado, where she learned she would stand trial in January. She is charged with one count of criminal mischief, a felony that carries a penalty of two to six years in prison.
Folden was arrested Oct. 6 in the Loveland Museum/Gallery after witnesses said she used a crowbar to smash glass shielding a print by Stanford University professor Enrique Chagoya.
The print at issue, one of several copies of the work, includes figures cut from a comic book, including a head resembling Christ on the body of a woman, and a skeleton with a pope's hat. The 7-inch panel, part of a 70-inch piece that contains several panels resembling a long pamphlet, contains a warning in Spanish: "For those 18 years and older."
Critics said the work depicted Jesus engaged in a sex act, but Chagoya said the work has been mischaracterized and doesn't show Christ. He said the work is a collage, and the controversial panel was aimed at expressing "the corruption of the spiritual by the church."
"It was taken out of context," Loveland Cultural Services Director Susan Ison said. "It's like taking a chapter out of a book, and then taking that out of context and thinking you understand the whole book."
Folden was led out of the museum in handcuffs wearing a T-shirt with a Christian slogan, "My Savior Is Tougher Than Nails." According to court documents, Folden told police she drove from Montana to Colorado specifically to destroy the artwork for "religious reasons."
Her arrest came after protesters picketed the museum and failed to persuade city leaders to remove the print.
"Violence is not something we condone," said Edward Armijo, deacon at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Loveland, who said he organized the protest after seeing children staring and giggling at the piece. "I wish she would have talked to me first. I would have advised her not to do it."
Folden declined to comment outside court and again seemed to let her T-shirt speak for her instead. Printed on the back was a cross with bloody nails, the words "With a big ugly stick" and a reference to a Bible verse from Colossians about not being fooled by enticing arguments.
Folden is represented by two lawyers, Derek Samuelson and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Cliff Stricklin. Folden has no previous criminal history, Samuelson said.
"She looks forward to sharing her perspective. She obviously is a woman of faith," he said of her upcoming trial.
Meanwhile, Chagoya has offered to create a painting for a church in Loveland after its pastor reached out to hear his side of the story regarding the controversial print.
Resurrection Fellowship pastor Jonathan Wiggins plans to speak about the offer with his congregation this weekend, and a spokeswoman said he wouldn't discuss it before then.
For now, a sign sits on a spot on a display table where the piece used to be advising visitors that it was destroyed. Nearby is an art book where visitors can use two magnifying glasses to view a postage-stamp-size picture of the work.
"I thought that's a shame," said patron Toren Forumo of Boulder. "That's not what you walk in to a museum for. You come here to enjoy art."