To all aspiring community artists: Use common sense

The “Surfing Madonna” — I guess the fact that I even chose to capitalize the title of the Vandal Art means that it holds some type of artistic merit with me. The topic is all the rage in North County and even managed to get a wee bit of national coverage with its “Is it Art or Vandalism?” viewpoint.
The story’s been regurgitated over the past few months, but long story short (too late), former Microsoft employee Mark Patterson felt compelled to move to Italy to study mosaic-making, where the face of the Virgin of Guadalupe was created. Upon moving back to Encinitas, he completed the rest of the mosaic and placed it at the base of the train bridge on Encinitas Boulevard.
Unfortunately, Mr. Patterson neglected to get the permission of …well…anyone. Since the guerrilla piece was erected without the knowledge of City Council, it’s considered graffiti.
The other angle that sticks in the collective craw of Encinitans is that it’s considered religious imagery because the Virgin of Guadalupe is a Catholic icon to millions across the planet.
Seriously? Are people really that bored? I’m an atheist and possibly an agnostic on a good day, but I could not possibly care less that a surfing virgin is plastered underneath an ugly underpass. Who has enough time in their day to be offended by something so inane and pointless?
Granted, if there was a big sign saying, “If you don’t like church and believe the Bible is papered perfection, you’re going to hell when us good folks are raptured,” yes, then I may have a bit of an issue with that.
Though Mr. Peterson mini-tiled something he and many others believe is a beautiful tribute to Encinitas and the nearby Pacific Ocean, it is nonetheless considered graffiti, if it’s neither condoned nor endorsed by the city.
If Encinitas City Council had allowed Mr. Peterson’s art to stay up, that would give credence and precedent for every single nut job “artist” in San Diego to blatantly throw up anything they see as “art,” thereby enabling the childish defense, “Well, he did it…why can’t I?” (And not that I’m a huge art aficionado, but I’ve seen what some people consider an artistic endeavor). Hint: It’s not.
I still don’t think I really understand why the city council spent $2,125 to a Los Angeles group to study removing the piece intact. That’s sounds a tad re“dumb”dant. Then Mr. Peterson was fined $500 for his troubles.
The saddest part is that people really responded to the mosaic. It was rare for me to drive under the bridge without swerving around people either admiring or photographing it. It was beautiful and very apropos for the city. Unfortunately, it was put up without thought or rationality regarding how it was going to be perceived.
The next time one of you aspiring artists feels an overwhelming urge to beautify your surrounding community, use your brain. Call the right people, submit the proper paperwork and be rational about wanting to publicly display your work.
Common sense, folks. I’m sure Mark Peterson would agree.

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