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But is it art?

by Pam Regensberg
Daily Times-Call

BOULDER -- Some University of Colorado students say an artist's mural attacking the Ramsey family may be within the artist's Constitutional rights, but it is still tasteless.

``It's immature, not artistic, and totally irresponsible art, whatever he has a right to do,'' said junior art student Jude Walker, who stopped by this morning to see the artwork.

The artist, 21-year-old senior art student Paul Hildalgo, designed the piece to elicit reaction, which has been ample. University officials were expected to issue a statement at noon today.

Merrill Lessley, interim chairman of the fine arts department, will make the brief statement on the south side of the Old Main Chapel. He is not expected to answer questions.

The public relations officials could not say whether the mural would remain up for the rest of the week. Part of the mural was torn down by late morning.

District Attorney Alex Hunter declined comment about the matter.

The full-wall mural first grabs people's attention with the loud, chartreuse base paint. But even more, the words ``Daddy's Little Hooker'' in blue, 10-inch high letters is a shock. Some people described it as a punch in the gut.

``Your art can hurt people,'' Walker added.

Dozens of people stopped by the Sibell Wolle Fine Arts Building to critique or just see the painting that features JonBenet Ramsey , the slain 6-year-old Boulder girl who was found strangled in her family's basement Dec. 26. Police have yet to interview her parents, John and Patsy Ramsey , who remain in seclusion.

Some people tacked notes to the mural criticizing the artist while others applauded him for exercising his First Amendment right.

``Express yourself. Thank you for not backing down to another attempt to censor artists,'' one person wrote. ``I think we all enjoy our freedom of speech ... regardless of what others want us to say and do.''

At the entrance of the hallway, the word ``LOOK'' in about 3-foot-high letters initially draws people further into the hall. An arrow points to the next wall, which is separated by a doorway.

Under ``Daddy's Little Hooker'' were three identical pictures of a lipstick-wearing JonBenet Ramsey . The photos were attached to the wall with masking tape. The original framed color, photo-copied pictures were stolen just hours after the artist completed his work on Monday morning.

One person bitterly wrote, ``This is a pretty brilliant piece of art. Real genius you heartless f------ jackal.''

A shrine with a scented candle, a Tootsie Pop, dried red roses, a woven cotton belt and a can of Pepsi were removed earlier in the week. This morning, however, a religious candle surrounded by pion nuts burned at the base of the painting.

``He's been known to surprise people,'' senior business student John Bornhofen said about Hildalgo.

Bornhofen said he believes Hildalgo is testing the parameters of his rights with his current venture and may have gone too far.

The mural is in an area where art students are allowed to display their work.

A retired Boulder attorney who asked to remain anonymous said he liked the message the student is trying to get across. It says that child exploitation in any form is abhorrent, he indicated. Children are sometimes treated as if they are ``pawns of society.''

``You have to hit them practically with a sledge hammer,'' said the 70-year-old man, who made a special trip to see the mural.

And people who are offended at this are acting from their own history.

``You bring to it what you've already brought with you,'' he added.