Surfing Madonna is in eye of the beholder

An art instructor told me “Once you put down the brush and stop painting it no longer belongs to you.” Her point was in life, and art, people will see what they choose to see.
Most Encinitas residents see the Surfing Madonna as a community gift. Business leaders of the Downtown Encinitas Merchants Association (DEMA) and Leucadia 101 business district see opportunity, saying, because of the Surfing Madonna, sales are up. While other cities spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote a favorable image, the Surfing Madonna has given the city free press money can’t buy.
The Encinitas City Council sees it differently. Deputy Mayor Jerome Stocks said the artist “wanted to put the city between a rock and a hard place.” The Council finds themselves in a situation of their own making. The Council could make a “Madonna Motion” to change municipal code, but lack the political will to do so. Where residents see a gift, the Council sees a rock. Where merchants see opportunity, the Council sees a hard place. Where the community sees beauty, the Council sees graffiti.
More than 85 percent of residents and 100 percent of Encinitas merchants speaking before the Council asked that the Surfing Madonna remain where it is. An art curator said the art could last 10 years in its location. The Council said the Madonna has to go. Stocks told the public he needed to be “the grown up in the room.” Did Stocks think the merchants and residents in the room were children for having a different view than him? Many found his comment puzzling. If the Council is unwilling to support local merchants, whom do they support? DEMA merchants know you never look a gift horse in the mouth, and the Surfing Madonna is the gift that keeps on giving.
Stocks said the Surfing Madonna has to go because it did not follow the established process. Councilwoman Kristin Gaspar said the city needed to follow city code and not pick and choose. Thirty minutes earlier Stocks broke the process he and the city established for naming the Hall Park. Stocks ignored residents who submitted 170 names and Parks Commissioners who presented a final list of five names.
Stocks had his own name for the park and made a motion to use the name he came up with, calling it a “community park.” When Councilwoman Teresa Barth rightly pointed out that under city code the park did not qualify to be called a community park, but did qualify to be called a “special use park,” Gaspar supported Stocks’ motion by “picking and choosing” to break the city code where she wanted to.
Gaspar broke code and the process saying she wanted to “bring the community together.” What is bringing the community together is the free Surfing Madonna the public wants to keep and the Council wants removed. What is tearing the community apart is the $50 million dollar “special use park” we can’t afford and haven’t built.
Earlier this year Stocks, Gaspar and the Council broke the process and approved of City Manager Phil Cotton getting extra pay spiking his pension. Cotton signed a contract voted on in public. Cotton got extra pay exceeding his contract behind closed doors. Last year Stocks endorsed ex-Mayor Dan Dalager while knowing Dalager failed to follow the process and disclose a $100,000 loan. Dalager later pled guilty to the DA. In Encinitas there is one process for Stocks and the City Council and another process for the rest of us.

Stocks said “the art is doing exactly what the artists intended for it to do.” Some could choose to see the art as a negative with bad intent because it fits a personal view.
I can only speculate what the artist wanted. I choose to see the positive. If the Surfing Madonna was intended to bring residents together in joyous smiles, to help our local business merchants increase sales and tax revenues, and to promote our city in a favorable light, then I say job well done.
Others might debate that the art was intended to show the public the growing disconnect between voters and a City Council that only has political will when it benefits special interests. Another perspective might be that the art was intended to point out to the public the hypocrisy of Deputy Mayor Stocks and a City Council that demand residents follow processes and codes when they themselves will go around processes and break codes as they alone see fit.
Art is in the eye of the beholder. What do you choose to see?


Filed Under: Life, Liberty and LeadershipNewsRancho Santa Fe NewsThe Coast News

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  1. Ex-Commissioner says:

    The torturous logic this twisted columnist will use to persue his venomous attacks on Stocks are creepy. Freud would have a field day analyzing this!
    In the first place the Encinitas Parks Commission is strictly an advisory body to the City Council. Secondly, they were tasked with making a recommendations for the City Council to select from, and thirdly, if the advise sucks I am glad our City Council has the brains not to accept and rubber stamp it.
    Adding to the "stuck on stupid" part of the evening was Ms. Barth who failed to understand that "community" is more than a definition in a municipal code. Ms. Gaspar got it and so do the normal people of Encinitas. The author of this piece clearly fails to fit that grouping.

  2. Tony Allegretti says:

    You mean that shlock kitschy garbage sort of like dogs playing poker? That ugly piece of crap? "Most" residents see it as what? You ignorant slut. And Tell Kydd I’m going to aue is ass.

  3. 11Zorro says:

    Gaspar and his cronies should have charges brought against them for conspiracy and corruption under the RICO statutes.

  4. rocket scientist says:

    The Parks and Recreation Commission received 175 names for the Hall property park, which is NOT a community park. The City originally floated the bond for a community park,, but a special use park is what they now are calling it. This is not what the citizens agreed to. If 175 people gave ideas for the Park, is the ex-commissioner suggesting that they are all stupid and silly? Yes, it is an advisory board, but Mr. Stocks was rude to the volunteer chair of the subcommitee Dr. Lori Green, just as he was toward Elizabeth Taylor on the Environmental Commission. The City Council wants yes people only. So, why bother with Commissions at all? It will be interesting if Dr. Lori goes up next year to be reappointed and if she does, will Stocks attempt to humiliate her as well. Somehow I think he might be more careful with her, as she is the only woman they have on the Commission and has done more than most. She is also much more intelligent and connected than he will ever be. Which is exactly why he will try to bully her. Will make for an interesting show if she chooses to bother with this commission any more.

  5. Local yokel says:

    Deputy Mayor Stocks, along with Mayor Bond and Councilwoman Gaspar, chose to use a very loose definition of "community park" as tightly defined in the General Plan. Yet when dealing with the Surfing Madonna insisted on using a very strict definition of "graffiti," forgetting that most observers see the mosaic as art, and not as graffiti. They can’t have it both way without abuse of process.

    I don’t find the logic in the commentary at all twisted. It’s very clear. And also factually accurate. I was at the council meeting. Stocks was petulant, as he always is when he doesn’t get his way, and Gaspar appeared to be mouthing the words she was told to say.

    Councilwomen Barth and Houlihan had it right. Of course, the Parks and Rec Commission only recommends. But to insist that the park be called a Community Park, when it clearly is a Special Use Park, is deceptive, dishonest, and deceitful. It’s an attempt to fool the public that they are getting something that they aren’t. Stocks is clearly in reelection mode and appears worried that he is in trouble for a series of self-serving decisions. His bullying tactics seem to be backfiring.

  6. RealEncinitas says:

    I guess that it is a "Community Park" in the sense that we, the Encinitas Community, get to PAY for it, but in terms of its actual use, I think it has already been designated for people in sports leagues, who may not even live in this city.

    Shouldn’t the people who pay for a city project have the ability to at least enjoy it and not have it negatively impact their lives in the way that Cardiff residents will be impacted?

  7. just the facts says:

    It will be interesting to see if Ms. Gaspar recuses herself when the Friends of the Parks wants to be the main fundraiser for the new park. She is or was on their board. When this item appears before the Council be sure you all know their motives, Their flyer that they gave to the Parks and Rec. Commission and staff says Special Use Park.

  8. alazan says:

    ex commissioner thou doth protest too much

  9. anonymous says:

    Follow the Surfing Madonna on Facebook at and stay up to date on the latest news, commentaries and public opinion.

  10. Domino Due' says:

    Remember three years ago when an innocent student from SDA was killed by an out-of-control truck driven by a fellow student under the freeway on Santa Fe Drive?
    While ‘Our Lady of Encinitas’ is beautiful, it also is unsafe. It is what is called ‘an attractive nuisance’ meaning, sooner, rather than later, some visitor will step backwards out into traffic to shoot a digital memory on their camera and get run over or killed.
    It is sad how many folks do not recognize this fact. Would you rather have your taxes spent on medical bills or civil suits or environmental stewardship?
    All Jerome Stocks has asked for is for those who want it saved, to participate in fund-raising to move it somewhere appropriate and safe.
    You want it saved? You can help pay!
    This column needs to be renamed; it is the same subject every week; Dump Stocks!
    The grasp of this ‘new’ columnist for local history, process, rules of order and the Socratic Method is always questionable.
    Be honest; change this column’s title to ‘Dump Stocks!’ and quit pretending to be about anything else.

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