under the bridge downtown (Encinitas between Vulcan and 101)…
Where else but in Encinitas would you get a surfing Madonna? The city famous for its catchable waves and funky public art now has a new piece apparently installed by a brazen crew of bogus construction workers. On an afternoon shortly before Earth Day and a few days prior to Easter, a group of men in hard hats installed a 10-foot square stained-glass mosaic of a surfing Our Lady of Guadalupe, complete with booties. “Save the Ocean” runs along the side of the mural. On the nose of her surfboard is the face of Saint Juan Diego who, according to legend, saw the Virgin Mary near Mexico City in 1531. On Monday, the identity of the artists was a closely-held secret among a select few in Encinitas.
The city already is home to the “Cardiff Kook,” a statue of a young surfer that’s often festooned in outfits and the subject of national headlines. But this time there’s a difference. The “Kook” pranksters operate clandestinely in the dark of night. These mosaic artists worked in broad daylight in an intersection that 18,000 cars pass every day. On Monday, officials debated whether the part of the bridge was owned by the city of Encinitas or by North County Transit District. Jack Quick, who owns an arts supply store right near the train bridge, said he saw the group of hard-hatted men installing the piece. Quick estimated the piece cost at least $1,000 in raw materials and 100 hours of labor.
Officials say the mosaic that mysteriously appeared over the weekend may disappear just as quickly as it came to light. The Lady Guadalupe mosaic, no matter how aesthetically pleasing to some, is an unauthorized use of public property, said Encinitas Planning Director Patrick Murphy. Howard Whitlock, the city’s Assistant Superintendent of Public Works, said he’s received a few complaints about the religious overtones of the art piece on public property. He’s also gotten calls saying the piece should be kept.
While Encinitas has a welcoming arts community, the pieces now standing on city property were approved after a formal public-review process. In February, the City Council approved a project to turn the stump of an infested Torrey pine tree into a statue of an Easter Island head. The mosaic seems to be affixed to 5-foot by 5-foot plaster boards and then glued to the concrete bridge wall.