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Woman arrested for art vandalism

by The Associated Press and The Daily Inter Lake
| October 8, 2010 2:00 AM

LOVELAND, Colo. — A Kalispell woman accused of taking a crowbar to an art museum display that has spurred protests and been denounced as obscene was arrested Wednesday on a charge of felony criminal mischief.

Kathleen Folden, 56, was accused of damaging a print that critics say portrays Jesus Christ engaged in a sex act.

Folden works as an over-the-road truck driver, according to Loveland Police.

Witnesses said the woman entered the Loveland Museum/Gallery, used a crowbar to break Plexiglas over the art and ripped the print, according to the Loveland Reporter-Herald.

Mark Michaels, an area art dealer who was at the museum, told Denver’s KUSA-TV that he saw the woman break the glass and grab the print, and that he tried to stop her.

He said that as the woman broke the case, she screamed: “How can you desecrate my Lord?”

She then retreated to a corner of the gallery, where she ripped the work to shreds. Folden was wearing a T-shirt bearing the slogan, “My Savior is Tougher than Nails,” according to the Reporter-Herald.

Police spokesman Andy Hiller said the work by Stanford University professor Enrique Chagoya has a tear in the panel with the depiction of Christ. The work, titled “The Misadventures of the Romantic Cannibals,” is a 12-panel lithograph that includes comic book characters, Mexican pornography, Mayan symbols and ethnic stereotypes.

It is part of an 82-print exhibit by 10 artists that opened in mid-September.

Chagoya told The Associated Press that he was shocked and saddened that his work was attacked.

“My intention has never been to offend anybody,” he said.

Police said the incident was the first disturbance since protesters began gathering this week outside the city-owned museum about 50 miles north of Denver.

About 100 people packed a Loveland City Council meeting Tuesday night to support and oppose removing Chagoya’s work.

The council decided to leave the art in place.

Chagoya said his work, a collage using religious and pop culture symbols, is a critique of religious institutions, not beliefs.

“I critique the institutions and my disagreements with the way the church corrupts the spiritual,” he said. “People might disagree with my views, my art, but I’m not trying to offend anybody.”

On Thursday, museum officials decided that they won’t replace the damaged artwork.

Folden, who was held overnight in the Larimer County Detention Center in Fort Collins, Colo., faces fines up to $2,000 if convicted of criminal mischief. She had a preliminary court appearance on Thursday afternoon and was released on $300 bond and will be allowed to return to Kalispell.

According to an account in the Reporter-Herald, museum employees initially reported in a 911 call that shots had been fired after hearing a series of loud bangs from the gallery followed by screams and shouts.

“We heard the bangs, and then people were screaming,” museum worker Michelle Standiford told the Reporter-Herald.

“It was very loud,” said Kathy Leonard of Loveland, who was touring the exhibit with her husband. “She was lifting the crowbar over her head and smashing it down, yelling ‘Filth! Filth! Filth!’”

Leonard said she picked up the crowbar after Folden dropped it.

“I didn’t want her to come back for it, and perhaps hurt someone,” she said.

Loveland resident Larry Jones, who was in the gallery during the attack, said someone shouted “call the police” as Folden was completing her act.

“Then the woman said, ‘Yes, call the police. I’m ready,’” he said.

Leonard said that as the police arrived, Folden “lay down on the floor next to the exhibit and spread her arms outward, like she had been crucified.”

Folden, in a long opinion piece submitted to the Daily Inter Lake in April, wrote that “the religion of the United States has been allowed to be invaded in the name of tolerance.”

She enumerated a list of her grievances, from Ten Commandments displays being removed from public areas to “an outdoor Buddhist display area in southern Montana.”

She concluded her letter:

“Where is His army of defenders?! … are you there!? ... are you sleeping!?  Where are His voters who are needed to toss activist judges?  Where are His election officials to keep things honest?  Where is the law enforcement to resist the heat of pressure to turn the other way? 

“Where are God’s teachers to patiently educate voters and those mislead into voicing opposition to what is right?  Where are God’s researchers to seek out proofs of God?  Where are God’s penetrators, who can shine lights on repressive hiring practices used to keep out God’s voices? 

“Where are God’s penetrators and defenders, who can and will risk all they have and all they are to shine lights upon bribery and corruption at all levels?  Where are God’s patient endurers who can serve on School boards, city boards, and library boards to defend and be watchmen on the walls?”

Reporter Tom Hacker of the Loveland Reporter-Herald contributed to this story.