The city of Santa Fe will give the owner of an adobe wall sporting controversial pro-Palestinian murals two weeks to remove the art pieces.
That’s because the type of medium — papier-mâché — the artist used to depict controversial images of Israeli soldiers confronting Palestinian women and youth is not permitted under the city’s Historic Preservation Division rules.
City spokeswoman Lilia Chacon said Monday that homeowner Guthrie Miller ”will not be receiving administrative approval to keep the murals up because of the medium is not allowed in the historic district.”
She said city officials will give Miller two weeks to remove the murals, which were created by a Navajo artist named Remy on Jan. 4 on the wall surrounding Miller’s property at the corner of Old Pecos Trail and Camino Lejo.
Miller said early Monday afternoon he was hopeful city officials would let him leave the art works up, though he did not plan to keep them for a long period of time.
“It’s not gonna last that long anyway,” he said, noting such material tends to fade and peel over time.
Chacon said the city will send Miller a letter Tuesday explaining city codes overseeing outdoor walls say they “must be built of brick, adobe, rock, masonry, wood, coyote fencing, wrought iron, slump block, or similar materials; and that stuccoed walls must be brown, tan, or local earth tones. These provisions do not provide for the application of artwork on paper with starch-paste glue, as is the case with your proposal.”
Remy said he created the digital images, which he plastered on the wall, to draw a comparison between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the plight of Native Americans during periods of colonialism and conquest.
Miller said he discovered the art work the day after Remy created them. Although the homeowner said he knew nothing about the project, he found the work “powerful.”
Some local Jewish leaders immediately criticized the work as anti-Semitic.
Since then, Miller said he visited with one local Jewish faith leader, Rabbi Berel Levertov, to discuss the images and the possibility of opening up the wall to a more balanced, mural-driven view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“The agreement was that a small group of us will sit down and talk so different points of views can be heard and listened to,” Miller said.
Levertov said Monday he is happy the mural will be taken down, adding he told Miller that if he wants to use art to showcase life in the Middle East, “he should depict more than one snippet.”
Miller, a retired Los Alamos National Laboratory employee who has allowed other pro-Palestinian art to be placed on his property in the past, said he hasn’t received critical letters, emails, phone calls or angry visitors about the new mural.
“I’m surprised,” he said. “Normally any mention of Israel [on the wall] would be gone by now. But no problems. I’m actually pleased with our town here.”
Nevertheless, one of the images on the wall featuring armed Israeli soldiers surrounding a bound-and-gagged Palestinian youth appeared to be partially defaced Monday. Miller said he is not sure when that may have taken place, though the mural piece in question was still intact at least as late as last Friday.
Miller said because his property falls within the city’s Historic Preservation District, he held conversations last week with several employees of the city’s Historic Preservation Division and Land Use Division, including planner Lisa Roach and acting Land Use Director Elias Isaacson, about whether he needs city approval to keep the wall art up.
“They said that the city is in the process of formulating a new policy toward mural art, which will be completed sometime this year,” Miller said. “They asked me to send them an email requesting approval for the existing art, including photos, and said that they would grant administrative approval. ... I did that on Thursday.”
Upon hearing late Monday that the city had turned down his request, he declined further comment.