MICHELE NORRIS, host:
The Virgin of Guadalupe been spotted on a piece of toast, a tortilla and a griddle. Now, she has shown up beneath a viaduct in San Diego County. Amy Isackson reports on her latest, less-than-mystical appearance.
AMY ISACKSON: It all started here, on the side of a busy road in Encinitas, California. We're just a few blocks from the Pacific Ocean, underneath the train tracks.
The story that's made its way around town is that on the Friday before Easter, a construction crew showed up.
Ms. RACHEL BORING: Like around 12 o'clock during the day, so no one would notice.
Ms. BEVERLEY GOODMAN: They put cones out and stopped traffic in one lane.
Ms. MARY McCARTHY: It appeared, quote-unquote, "mysteriously."
ISACKSON: That's Rachel Boring, Beverley Goodman and Mary McCarthy. It was a 10-by-10-foot mosaic of the Virgin of Guadalupe. She's riding a surfboard, catching a huge wave. She's brightly colored, and down the side it says Save the Ocean.
Mr. KYLE SMITH: This definitely fits with the whole beach-city vibe down here.
ISACKSON: Kyle Smith points out that Encinitas is a surf mecca. The mosaic is intricate and beautiful. The stones and glass the artist chose give the virgin's face a sort of beatific look. Her hands even have stone knuckles.
The problem is, the piece just appeared. It's illegal. Jim Gilliam is the city's arts administrator. He says the piece's guerilla nature fits with the city's energy.
Mr. JIM GILLIAM (Art Administrator, Encinitas, California): The chakras out in the ocean make this to be a vortex of creativity. And I think there has to be something legitimate to that because this is definitely a community that draws creative people.
Mayor JAMES BOND (Encinitas, California): It qualifies for graffiti.
ISACKSON: James Bond is the mayor of Encinitas. He says because the artist ignored the city's rules, allowing the piece to stay would set a bad precedent.
Mayor BOND: If I were an artist, I would think that anything I wanted to do, I could do anywhere I wanted to do it in the city because why? Because we left Madonna there. So, why wouldn't we do that for everybody else?
ISACKSON: Bond has received hundreds of emails about the mosaic. Most, he says, ask him to leave it be. But he says some caution that religious art has no place on public property. A few state that the piece is sacrilegious.
Mayor BOND: So, it puts us in an awkward position.
ISACKSON: St John's Catholic Church is about a mile up the hill from the mosaic.
Unidentified Group: (Singing) Hallelujah.
ISACKSON: Father Brian Corcoran says he loves the piece so much he made it the cover of a recent church bulletin.
Father BRIAN CORCORAN (St. John's Catholic Church): I call her Our Lady of the Waves. If Our Lady of Guadalupe lived in Encinitas, she probably would be surfing.
ISACKSON: Corcoran says a surfing virgin isn't traditional. But he insists it is in keeping with what she represents. And, in this case, he says the message transcends religion.
Father CORCORAN: It could be anybody on the surfboard: Che Guevara, Buddha, Muhammad. You want to save this world? You want to save the ocean? You want to make a difference in this world? You want to change the economy? You want to change our society? You have to get involved. Get up and catch the wave.
ISACKSON: The mystery of the artist's identity has Encinitas buzzing. A few people on the streets suggest confession would be a good way for the person to come forward. Corcoran says that wouldn't work.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Father CORCORAN: That is between him and God or her and God, whoever it was. For confession, you have to be able to say: I'm not going to do it again. That's tough.
(Soundbite of laughter)
ISACKSON: Meanwhile, the City of Encinitas hasn't decided what to do with the piece. Officials are waiting on an art conservator to tell them if it's possible to move it.
For NPR news, I'm Amy Isackson in Encinitas Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.