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.

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