The famous “Surfing Madonna” mosaic might have been taken down but it’s not going away.

Carlsbad artist Bryan Snyder has been working with mosaic-maker Mark Patterson on a painting version of Patterson’s icon, “Surfing Madonna.” The pair hopes to auction the painting version to cover the thousands of dollars fees Patterson incurred when the city of Encinitas required the piece, which he’d installed without permission, be removed.

(Snyder’s the same guy who laid out a compelling analysis of whether the graffiti that showed up on an Oceanside taco shop earlier this year was a “Banksy or Fakesy?“)

Snyder’s favored painting technique involves dripping paint in stenciled shapes, kind of like what a street artist would use to make a multi-colored spray paint image. “To fine such a beautiful gift is a shame, so I approached Mark with the idea of a collaboration to help compensate for his debt, as well as to keep the original mosaic’s message of ‘Save the Ocean’ in public’s view,” Snyder wrote in an email announcing the collaboration.

Snyder filmed the process of making the painting, which also includes leftover glass from Patterson’s original mosaic. Take a look:

Patterson traveled to Italy to learn the craft of piecing together glass to make mosaics, quit his computer job and lived off his savings for nine months while he worked to realize his years-long vision of a surfing Madonna mosaic that proclaimed “SAVE THE OCEAN” to his coastal community.

In April, he and an assistant dressed as construction workers installed the piece under a bridge in broad daylight, and Patterson’s identity was only revealed when a conservation team the city hired noticed his name etched near the top of the piece when they were studying how to take the piece down in June.

Patterson came forward and agreed to pay more than $6,000 in fees to the city to cover the cost of hiring that team and removing the mosaic. He still owns the piece and has said he’s looking for places to house it.

The event sparked a lot of public sentiment and debate between enthusiastic fans of the piece and city officials who said it must come down. The “Surfing Madonna” ordeal is, I think, a microcosm of the debate over the intersection of civic rules and art. On our site, reader Jim Ricker resented the dichotomy in the debate as a “fight between people with artistic sensibility and those who don’t appreciate art.”

Reader Dana Eyre suggested:

It’s better than taking it down and throwing it away; I’d prefer to keep it where it is, but I understand the city’s point. One person’s vandalism is another person’s (or a lot of person’s, given the turn-out to look at this amazing work) art, but the law is on the city’s side. So let’s hope someone offer’s a public home, close to the ocean, for this amazingly creative piece of art.

What do you think of the collaboration? Have you heard or seen buzz about the “Surfing Madonna” piece since it came down? Leave a comment below or on Facebook.

I’m Kelly Bennett, the arts editor for VOSD. You can reach me directly at or 619.325.0531.

And follow Behind the Scene on Facebook.

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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