Surfing Madonna mosaic draws mass following

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“We can’t just go around saying, `Well, when someone slaps up something nice, we like it and it can stay.’ Or, `Oh, we don’t like it, so we’ve got to take it down,’” Bond said. “We can’t do that with art because people always love and hate the same piece of art. So it’s a slippery slope.”

It also could quickly get out of control in a town like Encinitas that is full of artists, he said.

The city is covered with public artwork, including an infamous bronze statue depicting a surfer boy on a wave that has come to be known as the Cardiff “Kook.” The statue got the name from people in the local surf community from nearby Cardiff by the Sea who started poking fun at the artwork because they thought the boy’s delicate hands pointed upward seemed effeminate. People have been dressing up the statue for years to reflect the day’s news or holiday season _ it recently donned a curly wig and dress for Oprah’s departing show _ sending crews out regularly to clean it up, Bond said.

Bond says the city does not want to be a “Gestapo” and go after the light-hearted pranksters whose stunts are easily removed, but the surfing Madonna sets a dangerous precedent.

The Los Angeles-based art conservation agency, Sculpture Conservation Studio, on Tuesday began testing ways to safely remove the mosaic. Its workers told reporters standing nearby that they saw a name under the colorful glass but didn’t know if it belonged to the artist.

The agency concluded in an earlier report that there is no better spot for the Surfing Madonna than under the overpass, protected from the sun and rain. The artwork is stuck to the concrete wall with a strong epoxy glue.

“Its lifespan here may be longer than if put elsewhere,” the agency said in its report to the city.

Bond expects moving the mosaic will be costly, but local businesses are raising funds to cover the city’s expenses. And several people have offered to buy the artwork.

Although it’s graffiti, the City Council wants the mosaic to be relocated to a place where the public can continue to view it.

City workers, meanwhile, have been busy cleaning up other unauthorized art _ including a painting of a monster’s face that turned up under train tracks in a separate part of town shortly after the Surfing Madonna. That painting was whitewashed in 24 hours with not a word of protest.

“That was really easy to accomplish,” said Dody Crawford, executive director of the Downtown Encinitas Mainstreet Association. “It didn’t have the beauty that the Surfing Madonna has. It’s just so darn beautiful.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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