Paul Hidalgo - artist?
Artist regrets Ramsey mural
By Mary George
Denver Post Staff Writer

March 13 - Paul Hidalgo, the University of Colorado art student whose mural juxtaposing JonBenet Ramsey with the words "Daddy's little hooker" sparked an uproar, was having plenty of second thoughts Wednesday evening. "This was a fiasco," the 21-year-old senior said after spending the day stonewalling reporters' questions, then seeing himself portrayed unfavorably on television news, receiving a threatening phone call, being notified he has violated copyright law and facing possible legal challenges because of his display. "This really makes me question the media and what they go for," he said. "I was the perfect story.'' The story took shape Wednesday when reporters - from local outlets to national tabloid TV - discovered his display on two, 25-foot expanses of lime green wall in the Sibell Wolle fine arts building. On the first wall, foot-high block letters stenciled in dark blue declare "Daddy's little hooker" over three copies of the glamour photo of JonBenet that Newsweek ran on its cover in January. On the far wall, in 4-foot-high letters, is stenciled the word "look" to the right of an arrow pointing back to the first wall. JonBenet, a 6-year-old beauty queen, was found murdered 11 weeks ago today in her Boulder home. Her killing remains under investigation. She was strangled, sexually assaulted and her skull was fractured. Hidalgo finished setting up the mural at 2 a.m. Monday in space routinely used for short-term student displays. Twice - on Monday and again Wednesday - someone tore down the photos. Shortly after noon Wednesday, news and broadcast photographers and reporters filled the hallway. Hidalgo had told them to be there at 12:30 p.m., when he'd replace the photos. When asked at that time what it meant, he gave a stock reply: "My art speaks for itself.'' But after hearing what others thought played across the television screen, Hidalgo decided to try to end the speculation. He created the mural to air his opinion that "the people involved in this case are definitely tied to the crime committed," and to protest child pageantry, he said Wednesday evening. "I think exposing young and impressionable children to this institution (of pageantry) is a terrible act," he said. Earlier in the day, Merrill Lessley, interim chairman of the fine arts department, called the display "hurtful" but defended Hidalgo's right to express himself.Art student Sarah Pace said: "People have every right to say what they want - the tabloids do it. This is a reflection of what our society is all about.'' And associate professor of art history Vernon Minor called the display "unsophisticated, sensationalist, mean. . . . It stinks as a work of art, except for the fact that it got attention.'' By evening, Hidalgo was saying, "I'm going to be really glad when this is all over. I learned a lot about myself and I'm maybe questioning what my real ambitions are. I'd always thought I would like a public life, but I'm not sure I'm fit for it.
JonBenet mural at CU sparks furor
Camera Staff Writer
March 13, 1997
A 10-foot-by-25-foot mural presenting three beauty pageant portraits of JonBenet Ramsey beneath the words "Daddy's Little Hooker" sparked anger and controversy at the University of Colorado this week.
The attention-getting display by CU senior Paul Hidalgo in the hall of Sibell Wolle Fine Arts Building led an unidentified male student to rip the pictures off the wall Wednesday morning. It was the second time the mural has been defaced since going up on Sunday.
"I'm taking it down because it's garbage to put up "Daddy's Little Hooker' and pictures of a dead little girl," said the baseball-capped student who ripped the color photocopies from the wall and put them in a nearby trash can.
Six-year-old JonBenet was found strangled Dec. 26 in her family's Boulder home, about eight hours after being reported kidnapped. The murder of the child beauty pageant competitor has generated international attention.
Wednesday afternoon, the artist replaced the pictures in the CU exhibit, which is expected to stay up the rest of the week.
Hidalgo, 21, of Littleton said he wanted to address the issue of child beauty pageants with his artwork.
"I think the ethics and morality behind these pageants must be questioned. Exposing young and impressionable children to these adult and superficial institutions is a terrible thing," he said.
He said he regrets some people's interpretation that he is being critical of JonBenet.
"I feel very bad about what happened to JonBenet," he said. "I don't think she is responsible for a damned thing. What bothers me is, this is a rich and powerful family and they're manipulating all the resources for their benefit."
Family spokesman Pat Korten issued a statement that said: "Trying to sully the good name of a wonderful 6-year-old child who lost her life in a horrible way is not merely tasteless: It is disgusting and vulgar."
But the tearing down of the photos appalled many onlookers. "There go your First Amendment rights," said one passer-by.
"It's not anybody's right to come onto this university and rip something off the wall," said Carolyn McDowell, 59, a retired accountant from Gunbarrel who stopped to look at the mural about 9 a.m. McDowell took a snapshot of the student who tore down the pictures and later talked to police about it.
CU Police Sgt. Gary Arai said late Wednesday the suspect hadn't been arrested, but could be charged with theft or criminal mischief. An arrest has not yet been made in the earlier incident, either.
"Most of the artists here don't exactly enjoy looking at it, but we support (the artist's right) to put it up," said fine arts student Shea McDonald, 22.
McDonald said she also was glad to see the various written responses to the mural - two notes tacked to the wall from people who were offended by the display. Another said, "Thank you for not backing down to another attempt to censor artists."
Merrill Lessley, interim chairman of the Fine Arts Department, said the artwork falls under the constitutional protection of the First Amendment.
"Although I personally find the artwork to be hurtful, the student artist has followed appropriate departmental procedures which routinely allow student artists to schedule wall space for their artwork," he said. "For centuries, artists have taken on provocative subjects. This work is no different."
Family denounces JonBenet art display as 'vulgar'
March 13, 1997

Family outraged by exhibit

Meanwhile, a Ramsey family spokesman denounced an art display about JonBenet Ramsey by a student at the University of Colorado as "tasteless" and "vulgar."
The first panel of the exhibit contains the word "Look" and an arrow pointing to a second panel, which contains three color copies of a photo of JonBenet below the words "Daddy's Little Hooker." The photo, which came from Newsweek magazine, shows her in a white dress with full makeup and a crown of white flowers in her hair.
Paul Hidalgo, 21, who created the display, said his intention was to "raise issues" about child beauty pageants, in which JonBenet competed.
"The ethics and morality behind them must be questioned. Exposing young and impressionable children to this very adult and superficial institution is a terrible thing," Hidalgo said. He said the display has been torn down twice since he posted it Monday.
The interim chair of the university's Fine Arts Department, Merrill Lessley, said he found the display hurtful and disturbing. But he defended Hidalgo's constitutional right to erect it.
"For centuries, artists have taken on provocative subjects. This work is no different," Lessley said.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) A local art exhibit after the murder bore the title "Daddy's Little Hooker." Bynum read us a letter that John Ramsey wrote to the student artist.

MICHAEL BYNUM: "Dear Paul, I am writing this letter to you deeply hurt by how you have portrayed by daughter, JonBenet. We, as a family, have lost one of the most precious things in our lives, and it is difficult to imagine that we will ever have joy in our lives again. What you have incorrectly portrayed is a very small part of JonBenet's life. It was an activity that she and her mother enjoyed doing together, and she was a very competitive spirit. There was much more to her life. She was very religious. Did very well in school. Loved to go to the beach, and all the other things a normal six-year-old normally enjoys. You are young, and I can forgive you for what you have done."

DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) He said he hoped the young man would learn that others can be hurt by his actions.

MICHAEL BYNUM: "Sincerely yours, John B. Ramsey."
From Ramsey book - Death of Innocence Page 146

"Like a hailstorm continuously pelting our house, another blow hit Patsy and me when a University of Colorado art student created a collage of blown-up pictures of JonBenet under the heading, "Daddy's Little Hooker."

In the entry hall of the Sibell Wolle Fine Arts Building is a display area used for student work. Usually senior projects or personal art exhibits are posted there. This art student took JonBenet's picture from a national magazine cover, as well as other reproductions of her that appeared in a multitude of tabloids, enlarged them, and assembled the pictures in a collage that included lots of scribbled epitaphs. It created a grotesque portrayal of JonBenet.

The very large display ran the length of the hall in the Fine Arts Building. The newspapers rushed to photograph the distasteful display, and the story about the collage made national television news. It hurt us so deeply to see our daughter portrayed in this horrible manner. With John Andrew as a student at CU, the damage seemed even more horrendous.

A number of students had the same offended reaction and tore much of the display down, but the University of Colorado would not act. A university spokesman responded publicly with the explanation that the student was expressing free speech and "artistic integrity," and that the university could not ask him to remove his work. Because he was an art student, the whole sickening display could go back up again in the name of free speech. We were distraught that such an offensive portrayal of our child had been erected in the fist place, and on top of that, the faculty seemed to find the work acceptable. I later heard that the exhibit finally came down only because university officials feared that the use of previously copyrighted photographs could end up in a legal confrontation. I received a particularly hard letter from a man in Denver during all this which said, "If you're any kind of father, you'll tear that down." I had wanted desperately to destroy the grotesque exhibit myself, but knew that would be the media spectacle of the decade.

I decided that maybe the best thing I might do was to write the young man a letter and try to let him know how his cruel and heartless exhibit had

DOI Page 147

affected Patsy and me. In my letter, I told him that he was young now but one day he would probably be a parent. Only when he was a parent himself would he realize how deeply people love their children. Then he might understand how much he had hurt us. I sent the letter but never received a response from the "artist."

Throughout the month of February, stories appeared that either intimated or claimed outright that I had in someway sexually abused my daughter. The art student smearing JonBenet's pictures on the wall of the art building played right into this escalating rumor."


DOI Page 202

"John and I were both amazed at the number of transients who lived in close proximity to our Boulder home. We had learned that the house across the alley was occupied by a house-sitter during that Christmas. This man disappeared within days after the twenty-sixth. Who was he? Why had he left so quickly? The young CU art student who had created the "Daddy's Little Hooker" display had once lived only four doors to the south of us in a student rental house for a period of time. Unfortunately, we were realizing how transient our University Hill neighborhood really was. Some neighbors rented their extra rooms and basements to students and others who moved in and out frequently. We could only hope the police were paying close attention."
Marrying Traditions: From South Asia to South America
From circling a fire to tossing chestnuts, weddings can bring together a variety of customs.
Washington is an increasingly diverse area, and so is its wedding scene. The number of foreign diplomats, World Bank employees, and second-generation immigrants means that multicultural nuptials are common.

“It’s actually rare for me to plan a wedding where the bride and groom are the same religion or have the same ethnic background,” says Laura Metro, president of M Street Agency in Bethesda.

Throwing a multicultural affair has its challenges. Some couples host two events, each reflective of a different culture. Others design a ceremony and reception that incorporate divergent traditions.

Here are three couples who managed to pull off such a wedding, each in their own way.

From South Asia to South America

Last August, when Manvi Drona started planning a December wedding to Paul Hidalgo, whom she’d met two years earlier on a flight from Dubai to New York, friends were skeptical. Could Manvi, who is Indian, pull off a destination wedding in California that incorporated her Hindu background and Paul’s Argentinean background and Catholicism—let alone in four months?

Manvi, who works in marketing at Surety Information in DC, and Paul, a foreign-policy analyst and senior editor of the Iran Report, were confident. It helped that Manvi’s father, Bhushan, agreed to host the affair.

The McLean couple chose to marry in Sonoma because they both enjoy wine. In India, guests will travel great distances to a wedding, and festivities go on for days. Manvi and Paul decided to have a Hindu ceremony and rehearsal dinner, to which all 70 guests were invited, followed by a traditional American ceremony with a Catholic blessing the next day.

“We didn’t want anything that would involve a conversion,” says Manvi, 26. Still, the couple wanted to create something with ethnic flair.

The bride called on her San Francisco–based sister and her mother, who lives in Dubai, for help. Manvi’s mother ordered traditional Indian outfits, including custom shoes, for the wedding party. Relatives transported the hand-tailored outfits and decorations from Dubai and New Delhi.

One of the first challenges was finding a Hindu priest. “My mother interviewed several,” Manvi says. “I needed someone who would be able to translate Sanskrit into English. It’s very difficult to capture the essence of what’s being said.”

Working with a priest from Sonoma, Manvi condensed a four-hour ceremony into an hour. The couple wanted to highlight certain elements, including the Hindu tradition of incorporating earth, water, air, and fire. Two months before the wedding, a secretary at the Hindu-ceremony venue heard there would be flames in a small copper vessel and told the couple they couldn’t marry there. “She was picturing a bonfire,” says Manvi. Luckily, the owners relented.

After prayers and welcoming of the groom’s family to the mandap, or ceremony area, the bride and groom walked around the fire seven times. Together, they moved a betel nut with their bare toes as they took their vows.

The couple had prepared Hidalgo’s parents for the Indian ceremony. “There’s a lot of jocularity, which can be surprising,” Manvi says. For example, the bridesmaids steal the groom’s shoes, and the groomsmen engage in spirited bargaining to recover them; the point is for the wedding party to mingle.

As a nod to Paul’s father’s South American roots, the couple served Argentinean wine at the Hindu reception. During his toast, Bhushan Drona told guests that his daughter’s encounter with her future husband, somewhere above the clouds, confirmed his belief that marriages are arranged in heaven.

Paul’s father also gave a toast: “I found my wife when I came north from the south,” he said. “Paul found his when he went east from the west.”

At the American wedding the next day, the bride wore an off-white Vera Wang strapless gown with a three-foot train, and the groom wore a tux. The best man forgot the ring at the hotel, but it was recovered in time for the ceremony, as were the groom’s shoes.

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