ENCINITAS — Surfing Madonna artist Mark Patterson will seek permission to place his popular mosaic of Our Lady of Guadalupe on a surfboard on state property across the street from its original location on Encinitas Boulevard.
The proposed spot is technically part of Moonlight Beach state park, which the city has leased long term. Already, Encinitas City Councilman Jerome Stocks has called placing the image with a religious symbol on public land an “uphill battle.” The mosaic would need to be approved by the city and the state before it can be placed at the proposed location, at the northwest corner of Encinitas Boulevard and Highway 101.
Patterson captivated the county and the national media in April when he and another man anonymously affixed the 10-foot-by-10-foot mosaic to the base of a train bridge on Encinitas Boulevard, just east of Highway 101.
The stained-glass piece depicts Madonna on a surf board with the words “Save the Ocean” down the side. Hundreds of people flocked to Encinitas to see the mosaic, which the city labeled grafiti and said must come down. Patterson came forward and removed the piece in June when it seemed Encinitas couldn’t take it down without damage. It has since remained in storage except for one public appearance in Leucadia last month.
Patterson, who quit his job at a software company in 2010, worked nine months on the mosaic before affixing it to the bridge on Earth Day, two days before Easter. Anton Gerschler, Patterson’s attorney, said Wednesday that the artist would pursue the location near the train bridge.
Gerschler said Patterson and a nonprofit group called the Surfing Madonna Oceans Project would propose the new spot to the Encinitas Arts Commission at its meeting Monday. The group has already raised about $2,000. The piece will then proceed through the city’s public art review process, ultimately making its way to the Encinitas City Council. It would then go to the state to weigh in, Stocks said.
Gerschler said he would ask the process to be expedited so the Surfing Madonna could be displayed once again by next June.
Stocks, who visited the site with Gerschler and Patterson Tuesday, said the quickest way for the piece to go up would be for Patterson to allow it to be shown on private property. Stocks has expressed trepidation about having a religious symbol on public land, which could make Encinitas vulnerable to lawsuits. He said, however, that he would welcome the application and thinks the suggested location is appropriate.
Gerschler said the Paul Hastings law firm has spent countless hours preparing a legal defense for the Surfing Madonna in case someone decides to sue. He called the religious symbolism of the piece “an imaginary concern” given that the art’s intention is to save the ocean, not endorse religion.
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