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Banner Holiday : Artists Add a Touch of the Sea to Their Yuletide Designs for Santa Monica


Westside artists Laddie John Dill and John Van Hamersveld have designed original holiday banners for Santa Monica that will feature gulls, dolphins and kelp instead of the standard holly and mistletoe.

"Both John and I felt that a leading arts community such as Santa Monica should have original, distinctive artwork for the holidays," said Dill, an internationally known artist who lives in Santa Monica. Dill said he and Van Hamersveld chose a marine theme, instead of "the generic candle and Christmas wrapping thing," because they wanted the banners to relate to the seaside community.

Commissioned by the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce, the holiday decorations consist of 225 3-by-7-foot vinyl canvas banners that will be hung from light posts throughout the city. Each side will bear one of three designs: a gull, a school of dolphins and fish and a flowing arrangement of seaweed.

Each image is distinctively marine, Dill noted, but suggests the holidays. "The seaweed almost reads like mistletoe."

Dill, whose studio is in Venice, and Van Hamersveld, who lives and works in Malibu, collaborated on the designs using fax machines in their studio offices. Dill made initial drawings, Van Hamersveld said, "then I drew over them and cropped the designs."

The images appear on the banners silk-screened in white. The banners also feature colored backgrounds hand-painted by Dill. Dill said he used durable vinyl acrylic paints for the abstract backgrounds. To paint the hundreds of banners, Dill spread them on the floor of his hangar-like studio. "It looked like an Iranian rug dealership," he said.

Teri Klass of Dill's staff coordinated production of the decorations.

Dill said he and his collaborators, who donated their services, originally proposed that the word heal --a reference to their concern for the health of Santa Monica Bay--appear on the banners. The chamber felt the reference was too negative, Dill said, and the artists opted instead for the words peace , friendship and joy .

Though much less abstract than most of Dill's work, the banners are still decidedly contemporary. "The banners have a little more of an abstract edge to them than you might find in Des Moines," he said.

The decorations will go up the day after Thanksgiving and remain until Jan. 7. They can be reused each year.

Van Hamersveld said the finished banners are "beautiful, like a Christmas card." A Chamber of Commerce official, who asked not to be identified, agreed.

"In the past we've had very traditional Christmas decorations. That's a polite way of saying they were lousy."

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