FARMINGTON — When Durango painter Brenda Grajeda displays one of her pieces of art, "A Gift to My Muse," she hangs a pair of chaps and lacy orange panties on the wall beside it.

The panties and chaps represent femininity and masculinity through leather and lace.

Grajeda is showing her art at Pine River Valley Community Bank, 1701 Main Ave., Durango, as park of its 2013 Community Artist Program. Her art will be on display through May 31.

After hanging the abstract painting in the bank over the weekend, she returned earlier this week to change out some of the art. When she walked into the bank, she found that the panties had been moved so they would not be visible. One of the bank employees had found the panties offensive.

"I don't care if she found it offensive," Grajeda said. "It's a piece of art."

Enraged, Grajeda took the panties down. In her show list of the art on display, she noted that the piece was incomplete.

"Nobody has a right to censor art," Grajeda said.

On Wednesday the day of the reception the bank called her up and told her to return the panties to beside the painting.

If the bank had not agreed to hang the panties, Grajeda said she was going to wear them around her wrist to the reception. Instead, when she went to the reception, the first thing she did was hang the panties on the wall beside her art.

"People didn't understand what it represented," Grajeda said.

The bank's marketing director, Leslie McGownd, said people need to keep in mind that the bank has certain compliance rules it has to follow. McGownd said she could not comment on why the bank reversed its original position and allowed the panties to hang with the piece.

Pine River Valley Community Bank has been showing artists since February as part of its community artist program. As a community bank, McGownd said it is invested in the community.

"Very few local artists have the ability to be represented here," McGownd said, citing a shortage of galleries compared to the number of artists in Durango.

Because of this, the bank sent out a call to artists and accepted everyone who submitted. McGownd said since seeing Grajeda's work she has become a huge fan.

"We don't have a lot of abstract impressionists displaying here in Durango," McGownd said.

Grajeda said she has hung the painting with the panties in the past, and it usually creates a bit of controversy. And that's what she wants. Grajeda has shown art throughout California and Colorado.

"If I did that in L.A., nobody would think twice about it," Grajeda said.

However, Durango is a smaller and more conservative community, she said.

Other than the situation with the panties, Grajeda said she has had a positive experience showing at the Pine River Valley Community Bank.

She said she actually feels good that there has been a reaction against the panties because it creates dialogue.

"I think that art is supposed to create some sort of controversy," Grajeda said.


Hannah Grover can be reached at; 505-564-4652. Follow her on Twitter @hmgrover.