California's Surfing Madonna mosaic to come down

June 21, 2011 - 6:45 PM

ENCINITAS, Calif. (AP) — The artist who created the popular but illegal Surfing Madonna mosaic has agreed to pay the costs of relocating it from public property, it was announced Tuesday.

Mark Patterson will pay a $500 fine and all costs to remove the 10-foot-by10-foot stained glass work that mysteriously appeared days before Easter on the wall of a railroad bridge underpass in the beach town.

In negotiations with the city, Patterson agreed to remove the artwork "as soon as reasonably possible," according to a city statement.

The colorful piece depicts the Virgin of Guadalupe surfing a wave along with the words "Save the Ocean." Hundreds of people have come to view it in Encinitas, a picturesque coastal community 25 miles north of San Diego.

City officials said the piece was put up without a permit and technically was graffiti. However, authorities also agreed that it was beautiful and hired an art conservation firm to find a way to take it down without damaging it.

Earlier this month, the experts concluded it would be difficult to remove the mosaic without damage. Patterson then acknowledged that he was the creator and said he knew how to remove the artwork, which was screwed in place.

"The new location has yet to be determined," Paterson said in a statement Tuesday. "But it is my high priority to find a new venue within Encinitas — and bring the Surfing Madonna and her important message of 'Save The Ocean' — back into public view in our community as soon as possible."

Several local businesses would like to display the Madonna and there also have been numerous offers to buy it.

"I promise you, she is not for sale," Patterson said. "And she will be coming back as originally intended.as my gift to the community of Encinitas and all who visit here."

Patterson, a longtime Encinitas resident, has said he did not know that he was breaking the law when he put up the artwork.

He first envisioned the mosaic in 2005.

"I ignored it," he told San Diego Union-Tribune early this month. "Then it pops up again very strongly in 2009, and I drew a fairly complete rendition."

Patterson said he took a two-week class on mosaic-making in Italy last September and quit his job a month later to concentrate on creating the Madonna.

"Going to that mosaic school lit up some things inside of me, a creative feeling inside of me that really felt good, that really meant something to me," he said.

The work took nine months.

Patterson will be the technical consultant when the piece is professionally disassembled.

In addition to paying the fine and removal costs, Patterson agreed to reimburse the city $2,125 for the cost of hiring the art conservation firm and to pay for a safety inspection and repairs to the bridge underpass, if necessary.

Patterson's attorney, Anton Gerschler, has said that the removal would leave only small screw holes in the wall and they would not cause any substantial or permanent damage.

Patterson also agreed that he will not place any works of art on public property without city authorization.