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The Creator of The Surfing Madonna Mosaic Speaks

On 08, Jun 2011 | 5 Comments | In Et cetera | By man-admin

“When you have an artistic vision, sometimes you just can’t ignore it.”  Mark Patterson

The Surfing Madonna has been a cause celebre since it mysteriously appeared on the concrete support of a train overpass on Good Friday/Earth Day in Encinatas, California.

Gregory Bull/AP Photo

Work of art or defacement of public property?  The City Council said it must go.  The public fell in love.  The art vs. graffiti debate went into full gear.  Experts were called in.

  Gregory Bull/AP Photo

Art restorers Andrea Morse, below, and Andrew Smith, both of Los Angeles, test the possibility of removing the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe riding a surfboard from under a train overpass without damaging the artwork Tuesday, June 7, 2011, in Encinitas, Calif. Morse was hired by the city to test the artwork for removal and give a report. The unauthorized artwork is drawing a mass following, and even city officials who say she must go say they too have been taken by her.  Read more:

We understand there is even a Facebook Page and Twitter feed in Her name.

But, missing from the all the brouhaha were the answers to two important questions: “Who Dunnit and Why?”

All is finally revealed in the video interview below from Fox 5 in San Diego.  Meet Mark Patterson.  We find Mr. Patterson to be just about as sincere an artist as you would ever meet and remarkably eloquent about what drove him to design this image, travel to Italy to learn how to make mosaics, spend hundreds of hours and dollars making the work and then install it anonymously as a gift to the community in the dark of night.  Would that we all followed our visions this way.

What do you think?  Art or graffiti?  Should it stay or should it go?  Would allowing the Madonna to stay legitimize other random acts of public (mosaic) art?

Comment away . . .

Many thanks to Jeff Zelnio, Maureen Doallas and other MAN fans who have been keeping me up to date on this story.


Nancie (Who simply could not resist this story and is now going back on vacation.  Sorta.)

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  1. Paul Reiss

    Too bad the city is deeming it "graffiti" and taking it down.

    I think it's a great piece by Mark Patterson – primarily due to his vision and execution – trying to beautify a drab space that would have otherwise been ignored.

    Well done… Keep up the good fight Mark!

  2. Nancie Mills Pipgras

    I'm with you, Anonymous. Well said.

  3. Anonymous

    Accept the gift! It's lovely.

    Will it encourage graffiti?

    There will ALWAYS be graffiti – with or without the surfing Madonna. For once let it be something beautiful, with an important message, that captures the heart of the community as this has.

  4. Nancie Mills Pipgras

    Good questions, Maureen. I know the mosaic was done in panels and bolted into the overpass support. This could be a good thing, as it would allow for some "flexing" to handle vibration.

    As for vandalism, it is quite amazing, but most public mosaics are left quite alone. That's not an absolute, of course.

    I hope that The Madonna will get special dispensation and the community & Mr. Patterson will step up to handle any ongoing upkeep. She's become quite beloved and, as you say, it is a remarkable piece of work!

  5. Maureen

    Does anyone know how much traffic that overpass gets and whether the rumble of trains could damage the mosaic?

    It's wonderful that this is given as a gift. As we all know, however, donations of public art or even commissioned works do not take care of themselves. Even gifts come with costs. There are so many questions, including how to protect against vandelism.

    All those questions asked, though, it's a remarkable piece of work and I hope it can be saved.

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