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Controversial Sculpture Felled by Vandal

May 10, 1991

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) _ A vigilante art critic took saw in hand and felled a sculpture that had been criticized for depicting New Mexico’s three dominant cultures with a hot rod car, a buffalo head and a car phone.

The sculpture, entitled ″Fetish for Los Tres Gentes,″ or fetish for the three peoples, was found Thursday morning lying on the south lawn of the temporary state Capitol. Its 20-foot pine post was neatly sawed off about a foot above the ground.

Sculptor Bob Wade said the work, part of a month-long exhibit organized by the state Office of Cultural Affairs, represented icons of three cultures. The two-dimensional buffalo head represented Indians; a ski and a car phone antenna represented Anglos; and the car - the cut-off driver’s side of a white, 1951 Chevrolet with red flames shooting back from the fenders - represented Hispanic culture.

″It was a good-intentioned, lighthearted piece,″ Wade said.

But the sculpture drew considerable criticism, primarily from Hispanics who considered its image demeaning. Telephone operators at the governor’s office and the Legislature were ″bombarded with calls,″ a receptionist said.

One critic, John Ojinaga, said it applied negative stereotypes to Hispanics while choosing Anglo icons that represent success and power, such as a car phone.

″I’m surprised he didn’t have a laptop (computer) up there,″ he said.

Wade said he would replace the sculpture with another work for the exhibit, which runs through the end of May.

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