“Work intuitively, quickly. When you have the whole thing done, then you go back and edit.”These were instructions given to Mark Patterson while studying the art of mosaic in Ravenna, Italy during the autumn of 2010. This approach was soon to have a tremendous impact on his life.
A Leucadia resident since 1983, Patterson became, virtually overnight, Encinitas’ version of Robin Hood by stealthily installing an unauthorized mosaic beneath a railroad trestle. However, instead of taking from the rich and giving to the poor, Patterson’s intention was to contribute to his community with a beautifully illustrated message: “Save The Ocean.” A secular interpretation of the Latino icon Our Lady of Guadalupe, the mosaic was intended as a gift to his city, not as a controversy that spread virally nationwide.
What took nine months to complete, and less than two hours to install, instantly eclipsed the Cardiff Kook’s notoriety. When asked how he handled the assault of news reporters appearing on his doorstep, Patterson responded, “I told myself ‘Just breathe; try to stick to what I’m thinking and feeling, and speak from the heart.’” This mantra allowed him to remain calm throughout the conflict.
Patterson recounts the abbreviated chronology: “I sketched. She appeared. I ‘mosaicked.’ She surfed the train bridge. I was anonymous. She went viral. I got in trouble. She came down. I paid. She’ll be back. I’m happy.” Much of this happiness is the result of tremendous community support during the adversity.
Hopes were high that the Madonna would find a permanent home at Moonlight Beach, until California’s Superintendent of State Parks’ recent rejection of the proposal. Based on Patterson’s public statement of inspiration by the image of Guadalupe, officials assumed a religious context, therefore deeming the image inappropriate for state-owned property.
Patterson, who grew up in a creative family, muses, “Every artist who’s ever lived has been inspired. ‘Inspire’ literally means to ‘breathe in.’ Artistic inspiration comes in like breath, and you have to express, or breathe out. It has to come out. That’s the artistic process.”
When asked what he would like to express to the public, Patterson responded, “How infinitely grateful I am to all the people in North County and beyond, and the City of Encinitas, for all the love and support they’ve shown.”
He went on to say, “There are two primal factors in life: Love and Fear. People need to embrace what they love, not what they fear. By focusing on what they love, incredible things can open up.” This has certainly proven true for him.
To date, Patterson has directed all incoming funds to the Surfing Madonna Oceans Project, a foundation formed to ensure the future of the mosaic, as well as of the ocean. By inquiring if a portion of sales will go to the foundation before purchasing items bearing the celebrated Surfing Madonna image, you are helping to prevent copyright infringement.
For updates, visit surfingmadonna.org.
Patterson’s banner “Save the Ocean” can be seen at 338 North Highway 101 in Leucadia.
Kay Colvin is an art consultant and director of the L Street Fine Art Gallery in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter. She specializes in promoting emerging and mid-career artists and bringing enrichment programs to elementary schools through The Kid’s College. Contact her at email@example.com.