Surfing Madonna finds home on Web

The search continues for a permanent home for the Surfing Madonna by artist Mark Patterson. (Photo courtesy of Surfing Madonna Oceans Project)

The search continues for a permanent home for the Surfing Madonna by artist Mark Patterson. (Photo courtesy of Surfing Madonna Oceans Project)

Ernesto Lopez

After many legal battles, the Surfing Madonna mosaic is still homeless.

But despite the challenges and defeats, its supporters and creator, Mark Patterson, remain hopeful that it will soon find a home. In the meantime, they continue to raise awareness and funds to cover the costs for its future installation.

Most recently, and very quietly, a website for Patterson’s nonprofit organization Surfing Madonna Oceans Project was launched. According to its mission statement, the goal is to “bring back the mosaic” and bring forth issues affecting the world’s oceans.

The site contains a message from Patterson, photo galleries and links to media coverage, and will report on latest developments.

Supporter and Leucadia resident Scott Chatfield known for the website during the controversial change to the new 442 area code is responsible for creating He came into the picture last year around the time Patterson was identified as the artist responsible for anonymously installing the mosaic just before Easter under the railroad bridge between Vulcan Avenue and Coast Highway 101.

The 10-foot-square art piece of stained glass and stone depicts Our Lady of Guadalupe on a surfboard with the words “Save the Ocean” down the side.

Scott Chatfield
Scott Chatfield

I was fascinated by it,” said Chatfield, an adjunct radio/television professor at San Diego City College. “I smiled because this was the controversy in Encinitas, as opposed to murders and all sorts of horrible other stuff.

I reached out to Patterson to show my appreciation for what had happened and its message, and I registered the site to help provide a platform,” he said.

Not everyone did appreciate the Surfing Madonna. City officials labeled the work graffiti because it did not go through the mandatory public-review process and they immediately began the process of having it removed.

Mark Patterson
Mark Patterson

It was then when Patterson came forward. He paid a $500 fine, and an additional amount for the costs of its removal last June and any damage caused.

In an effort to keep the Surfing Madonna in a public setting, Patterson and his legal team submitted the mosaic through the Encinitas public-review process and proposed it be displayed near Moonlight Beach, which is state-owned land and across the street from its original location.

The city’s Art Commission and City Council unanimously approved the location after an official poll determined the public approval for the site to be more than 90 percent. However, the state attorney general’s office turned down the request in March of this year saying it would violate the state’s “no preference” clause in the California Constitution.

That clause states that it is illegal for the state to display religious symbols on public land, as it demonstrates preference to one specific religion.

City officials could not be reached for comment by this story’s posting time.

Patterson, who is currently in Guatemala, has repeatedly said he was not inspired by a religious vision when he created the mosaic.

I know I speak for Mark in telling you that the message of the piece is simply and important ‘Save the Ocean,’” said Patterson’s attorney, Anton C. Gerschler.

While religious iconography is a part of the figure, it is not a religious mosaic,” Chatfield added. “It’s an ecologically based mosaic using an icon to portray the message.”

Even after the latest setback, the hope is still very much alive. Gerschler and Chatfield are inviting people to visit the site, to explore it and, if able to, donate to their relocation efforts, given that the intent is to do all this at no expense to taxpayers.

The Surfing Madonna was done with the purest intentions and hopefully that pure intention will carry her though to her final home,” Chatfield said.

A Facebook fan page was also recently created. It is under Surfing Madonna Oceans Project.

Ernesto Lopez is a San Diego freelance writer