‘Surfing Madonna’ may be coasting into Solana Beach
By Marlena Medford
The Surfing Madonna mosaic mysteriously appeared under a bridge in Encinitas just before Easter Sunday and, since then, has earned quite the following. For months locals have flocked to see it, some lighting votives near the feet of the Virgin of Guadalupe, who is depicted riding a wave with a simple plea written to the left of her surfboard: “Save the ocean.”
Albeit beautiful, this image of Mexico’s patron saint may soon be vanishing from Encinitas. That’s because the 10-by-10 foot mosaic was installed without city permission by artists masquerading as construction workers, so city council has deemed it “graffiti” and decided it must be removed.
The question now is where will Surfing Madonna go.
Several parties have added their two cents on the matter, including Solana Beach art lovers Peter House and his wife Carol Childs, who have stepped forward to offer Surfing Madonna a permanent home on their property near Fletcher Cove, where the public could still view it. Coincidentally, this property is already home to another mosaic of Madonna, a copper abstract interpretation created by Childs’ mother Winette Childs, a celebrated sculpture artist who is responsible for many public art pieces, including the fountain in the center of the Solana Beach Plaza.
“We are concerned about the conservation and protection of this artwork,” explained House, who noted that pieces of glass were already missing from Surfing Madonna when he went to examine it recently. “This is a tough climate for outdoor art. The salt water alone will eat it alive.”
For that reason, House and Childs would keep Surfing Madonna inside a protective encasement, which would be attached to the wall of their building near Plaza and Acacia, which once housed the Solana Beach Motel. That encasement would also be lit so people could view the artwork at night. They have also agreed to assume the cost of removing the mosaic, which could prove to be a challenge because it’s bolted to the wall. Should the artwork or wall be damaged as it’s removed, they have also agreed to pay for repairs and restoration.
House and Childs have approached Encinitas City Council with a written proposal — and have been in talks with Anton Gerschler, the attorney representing Mark Patterson, the Surfing Madonna artist who recently reveled his identity.
“At this point, we’ve done all we can,” House said. “We would love to bring [Surfing Madonna] to Solana Beach. It’s a great piece of artwork, wherever it ends up.”
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