World

Surfing Madonna removed from San Diego underpass

Crews have removed the popular but illegal Surfing Madonna mosaic from the wall of a railroad bridge underpass near San Diego, and artist Mark Patterson is responsible for the costs.
Nick Dinapoli of San Diego stands in front of the Surfing Madonna mosaic under a train bridge in Encinitas, Calif. The popular but illegal mosaic was removed from the underpass Wednesday. (Gregory Bull/File/Associated Press)

Crews have removed the popular but illegal Surfing Madonna mosaic from the wall of a railroad bridge underpass near San Diego.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports the removal began at 9 p.m. Wednesday and was completed about two hours later.

Artist Mark Patterson agreed to pay for the removal of the three-by-three-metre stained glass work that mysteriously appeared days before Easter in the beach town of Encinitas.

Patterson says the piece was not damaged when it was taken down, a nearly two-hour process that drew a crowd, many expressing disappointment over the removal.

Hilda Oatley, a 44-year Encinitas resident, stopped her drive when she saw the removal workers.

"When I saw the lights, I felt in my heart, ‘Why?’ It’s really beautiful," she told the Union-Tribune. "They really should have just left it alone."

At Leucadia Pizzeria, across the street from the site, waitress Mindy Mitchell said: "I understand the principle of why they have to take it down, but at the same time it’s a masterpiece."

The colourful piece depicts the Virgin of Guadalupe surfing a wave along with the words "Save the Ocean."

The mosaic was considered graffiti under the municipal code and city officials said it must come down.

Patterson says he will now focus on finding a permanent home for the Madonna.