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Idaho City's Catholic Leaders Shun Religious Art Sculpture

Loren Benoit

An Idaho art gallery has received flak from the Catholic community for a sculpture sitting in its storefront window.

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

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

"They said it's free speech," Runkle said. "We totally support free speech and an artist's choice. But when it comes to offending people's religious beliefs, we should have a choice too."

This is the sixth time the sculpture has been in the window, but the first time it has caused concern, store owner Blair Williams said.

Williams said she considered the request to get rid of the sculpture, but she declined because she will always defend an artist's creative choice.

Montana artist Chris Riccardo made the sculpture. He said as a young boy growing up in the Catholic church, he always found himself drawn to the "beautiful statuary and stained glass" of the churches and schools he attended.

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

He acknowledged an ongoing struggle with his own beliefs and faith. But he said he respects those who hold true to their faith and religious practices. His sculpture "Our Lady of G and Me" was not created to offend people, Riccardo said.

"It was created to be my spin on those beautiful statues I saw as a child," he said. "Art should create some sort of dialogue. If it doesn't, then it's not art."