Artist Mark Patterson stands with his famed “Surfing Madonna” mosaic at it’s new permanent home at a coffee shop in Leucadia. Photo by Wehtahnah Tucker

Iconic mosaic has place to call home

LEUCADIA — The future of the mosaic that brought international recognition to a relatively quiet corner of the world is now solidified. 

The “Surfing Madonna” mosaic, known formally as “Save the Ocean” is back in public view after a yearlong journey to find a home.

The artist, Leucadia resident Mark Patterson, and a crew secretly installed the work on an underpass along Encinitas Boulevard in April 2011. The mosaic was removed months later by the city for not following proper protocol for installing public art.

“It feels so nice just to have it out of storage,” Patterson said as he stood, looking up at the mosaic from the courtyard of Café Ipe. The relatively new coffeehouse at the corner of North Coast Highway 101 and Jasper where the piece can now call home.

Patterson was adamant that it remain on public property, as it was his “gift to the city.”

“I was very invested in the idea of it being public,” Patterson said. Even if the location is private, visitors have access to view it from the street and sidewalk.

Dave Thomas, owner of Café Ipe said word spread quickly about the mosaic’s new location. “There have been a lot of new faces here,” he said. “Everybody seems pretty happy about it.” Patterson is a regular at the café, Thomas said.

The mosaic continues to garner national media attention and widespread local support for its preservation. “It’s become part of our culture,” Patterson said.

Patterson agreed to remove the piece from the underpass last year at his own expense and pay a $500 fine. The artist also agreed to cover the city’s expenses for the hiring of an art consultants to best determine how the piece could be removed.

Patterson hired Tekton Master Builders, at a personal cost of approximately $4,000, to remove the six panels of mosaic tiles, each weighing about 40 pounds. He supervised the removal effort as well. “I was so glad the workmen knew exactly what they were doing,” he said at the time.

While it look less than two hours to get the 10-foot-by-10-foot mosaic down from the underpass, Patterson estimated it took at least six hours to install in the new location. The owner of the building, Keith Harrison and Patterson agreed to a loan in perpituity.

“But with private property you never know what will happen to the building,” Patterson said. For now, he’s content to have the public enjoying the mosaic. No less than a dozen people stopped to admire the artwork and take photos on Wednesday.

The City Council agreed to support the installation of the piece on state-owned land at the entrance of Moonlight Beach earlier this year. However, officials with the state of California declined, citing the mosaic’s depiction of the Lady of Guadalupe as a violation of church and state. “I wasn’t 100 percent surprised by the decision,” Patterson said. “The state is risk averse and the last thing it needs is to take a chance on being sued.”

Patterson said the current location is structurally ideal because the wall is flat, faces east and is easily accessible. Geographically, the mosaic is at home in Leucadia according to Patterson. “There are a lot of generous people who have an open spirit towards things that are uplifting, including art,” he said.

Our Lady of Guadalupe’s cloak is points towards the phrase “Save the Ocean” on the left side of the mosaic while the wave is arcing onto the message as well. “I was trying to be as subtle yet as effective as possible on that message,” Patterson said.