Surfing Madonna Example of Encinitas Underground Art
Image Creates Controversy
The so called “Surfing Madonna” of Encinitas portrays the iconic Virgin of Guadalupe riding a surfboard. This 10 foot by 10 foot mosaic was created by Mark Patterson. The artist mounted the work on the pillar of a railroad bridge in secret. Patterson and a friend disguised themselves as construction workers for the two hour long mounting that was done on Good Friday, April 22 of 2011.
The work is composed of six panels measuring 3 by 5 feet for the main image. There are two additional 1 by 5 foot panels containing the message the Madonna brings. “Save the Ocean.” These are placed to the left of the image with the letters running down alongside the Madonna. The Virgin is on a white surf board. Her hands are held together in prayer, and her green garments appear to flap in the wind.
Despite the city’s long association with the arts and the area’s large community of artists, Encinitas’ officials showed little tolerance for the work which they branded graffiti and decided to have it removed. They took it upon themselves to do this despite the fact that the bridge is owned by the North County Transit District. The city ended up spending $2,000 for an art consultant who was to determine how it could best be removed without destroying the work in the process. As removal proceeded, Patterson’s name was found underneath, and he soon came forward to admit being the creator.
Patterson was fined $500 for putting the work up and charged an additional $6,000 for the removal. The work survived largely intact and was returned to Patterson.
Mixed Reaction to the Work
While some Catholics and Hispanics found the work sacrilegious, others considered it a fitting tribute to the Virgin of Guadalupe. The original image of the Virgin was believed to have been miraculously created. It is revered throughoutMexico. The local Catholic Church wanted to display the work, and many of the parishioners agreed.
News of the controversy was widely broadcast by the Associated Press. Images of the “Surfing Madonna” went viral on the Internet. A number of communities expressed interest in displaying it including nearby Solano andImperial Beach.
Patterson ended up signing a pledge with the city of Encinitas promising never again to hang any art work without first obtaining permission. The “Surfing Madonna” is currently being held in storage. An effort is underway by fans of the piece to have the mosaic displayed at Moonlight Beach. This state park is currently conducting renovation work which may or may not include the “Surfing Madonna.”
Encinitas has a long history of attracting offbeat artists. The city normally is known for its laid back style. The harsh reaction prompted by this incident caught many by surprise. It seemed out of character for a town so devoted to the arts. A stroll around town will reveal many galleries displaying work that can be considered just as outlandish as the “Surfing Madonna” obviously appears to city officials.