Idaho city’s Catholic leaders avoid religious art sculpture

An Idaho art gallery has received criticism from the Catholic community for a sculpture sitting in its display case.

The coin depicts Our Lady of Guadalupe in the style of the Day of the Dead, a Mexican holiday where those who have died are commemorated and celebrated. It shows a veiled figure standing, hands clasped in prayer. One breast is exposed and her face appears skeletal with the lips sewn up.

Bob Runkle, who attends St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Coeur d’Alene, said a network of parishioners from at least two Catholic parishes had appealed to the Art Spirit Gallery to remove the sculpture, reported Thursday Coeur d’Alene Press.

“They said it was free speech,” Runkle said. “We fully support free speech and an artist’s choice. But when it comes to offending people’s religious beliefs, we should also have a choice.”

This is the sixth time the sculpture has been in the display, but the first time it has raised concerns, said store owner Blair Williams.

Williams said she had considered the request to get rid of the sculpture, but declined because she would always champion an artist’s creative choice.

Montana artist Chris Riccardo made the sculpture. He said that growing up in the Catholic Church he had always found himself drawn to the “magnificent statues and stained glass windows” in the churches and schools he attended.

“These iconic images, hovering above us, fascinated me, and as I got older, these images found their way into my sculpture,” said Riccardo.

He recognized an ongoing struggle with his own beliefs and faith. But he said he respects those who stay true to their faith and religious practices. Her sculpture “Our Lady of G and I” was not created to offend people, Riccardo said.

“It was created to be my version of those beautiful statues that I saw as a child,” he said. “Art should create some kind of dialogue. If it doesn’t, it isn’t art.”