ENCINITAS, Calif. -- Since it first appeared seven weeks ago, people have been captivated by the mysterious "Surfing Madonna" mosaic and curious about the anonymous artist who affixed it to a concrete wall under a railroad overpass in Encinitas. This is how I tracked him down.
On Wednesday, I was headed to the gym and the park to run the dogs. While driving past the Madonna, I noticed she was surrounded by caution tape and cones. There were 3 people poking and prodding the mosaic, while several others stood around with tablets and still cameras.
The NEWS buzzer went off in my head! I was also happy to see only "print" reporters and no TV crews. This one is mine!
I made an illegal lane change, pulled into the dirt lot around the corner and grabbed my camera bag, and tripod and went over. I'm not a natural video shooter, so I have to pay close attention to exposure, focus, sound, etc.
The Madonna was a riot of pictures and sound that morning. There was traffic, the murmur of the art consultants trying to figure out how the art was attached to the wall, reporters joking and sharing speculation, and in the background the occasional shout from people in cars, on bikes and walking by. I heard "stop molesting the virgin," "Leave the Madonna alone" and "The people want her to stay!"
Then there was Tommy Dag Moo, who jerked his big rig to the curb, jumped out and ran up waving his arms and declaring, "Dude! Leave her alone! Bad stuff's going to happen! My friend was skateboarding and fell. It was bad -- you could feel the broken bone. We leaned him up against the Madonna, and while we were waiting for paramedics he was all better! There's something here!"
A few minutes later, I heard one of the consultants say, "There's a name up here! Yeah, there's letters under the glass. It says Ark Patterson."
I asked the U-T reporter next to me, "Did I hear him right? Did he just say there is a name up there?" He just nodded.
Ark Patterson huh? It was not a great detective's leap to add an M to the Ark, and off I ran. From there, it was what I like most: using Google and Facebook to get what I was after. Who is Mark Patterson?
Jill Chandler, the Fox 5 assignment editor, came up with a Mark Patterson from San Francisco. Had he come south, done the deed and left the rest of us to debate?
I found a Mark Patterson in Encinitas, but he didn't seem to fit. He was a distance runner, a lover of classical music, a guy who enjoys gardening and outside adventure -- no pictures of art and no mention of mosaic art. I saw some friends we shared on Facebook and made some calls. His friends spoke highly of him but knew nothing.
When researching by Google, it can be just one word that is the key. I added the word mosaic to Mark Patterson and Praise Mary Mother of God, there it was -- my hallelujah moment! I found a posting on the Facebook page of The Mosaic Art School in Ravenna, Italy. My Encinitas neighbor Mark Patterson had posted the following:
"Maestra Luciana, I am progressing nicely with the Madonna that I started at your school in early September 2010. I will post a photo here once it is completed. And I keep hearing your instruction 'Follow the line!' as I work."
I had him! His name was on the mosaic, and his admission he was working on something he called the Madonna was on a respected Italian mosaic school's Facebook page.
Now I needed to actually find him. I won't share much here, because I called on trusted mutual friends to help. These people know and like Mark, and were reluctant to give out his personal information.
I found him and left him several messages before we finally hooked up. He invited me to see his beautiful gardens and the home he had rescued after it was abandoned. At this point, I started to realize he was more than a news story. He was a remarkably kind man who had been moved by a spirit to do what he did.I got the story, and I believe I also found a new friend. Mark has ultimately improved the town I love and started a very large and lively conversation about art and what it means. He is a positive story at a time of so much hardship and sadness. Thanks Mark.