What to Do With the Surfing Madonna?

The anonymous artists who put up the so-called “Surfing Madonna” have certainly not done the city of Encinitas any favors.

Since it was installed underneath a train bridge on Encinitas Blvd. last month, the 10 foot by 10 foot stained glassed tile mosaic has drawn the admiration of onlookers. But it’s been a costly headache for city leaders.

The artwork, which shows Our Lady of Guadalupe on a surfboard, has drawn complaints because some feel it is offensive as a religious symbol. They say it should be taken down. But not everyone agrees.

“Calling this graffiti is absolutely appalling and ignorant,” said Tricia Takacs of Encinitas. “I’ve never seen a Madonna on a surfboard with booties.”

The stained glass piece mysteriously appeared Easter weekend under the train trestle on Encinitas Boulevard between Highway 101 and Vulcan Avenue in Encinitas.

"Save the Ocean" runs along the side of the mural but so far, no one has claimed responsibility for it.

The mosaic may disappear just as quickly as it came to light, since it is an unauthorized use of public property.

The city paid $2,000 to a Los Angeles art studio to study the piece. Among the findings: Whoever put it up, doesn’t want it to come down easily. Eight panels are attached with high strength epoxy glue. The artwork could last up to 10 years. The study found it would cost another $1775 for another study to find a way to move it without destroying it.

Encinitas Mayor James Bond says he doesn’t want to destroy the artwork, but he’s not sure if spending additional money to preserve it is in the city’s best interest.

“There’s no easy way to resolve this,” said Bond. “And what’s to keep other aspiring artists from planting something on any other public facility?”

“I certainly appreciate the city’s dilemma that we can’t have people just putting up art,” said Martha Cox, as she admired the mosaic. “I appreciate the dilemma of this. It’s not clear cut.”

The city council will meet Wednesday at 6 p.m. and hear public comment on the matter. Bond says he doesn’t know what to expect, but said it’s likely a final decision will not be made on the Surfing Madonna.

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