Artist to address councilwoman's critique

COSTA MESA — Artist Jason Maloney will explain his interpretation of the city seal at a Cultural Arts Committee meeting next week.

Maloney was tapped by city spokesmen Bill Lobdell and Dan Joyce a few weeks ago to make a youth-oriented design for Costa Mesa. The design would be put on T-shirts, which would then be sold to help buy thousands of water filters for Haitian families.

"They were just trying to make the city cooler, make people want to come here and celebrate the art of the city," said Maloney, the art director for Costa Mesa-based Hurley.

The artist put a new age, if controversial, spin on Costa Mesa's seal. It's outlined by barbed wire, with spray cans representing art, headphones representing music, and a surfboard and skateboard representing youth culture. Maloney's trademark character, Tippsy the elephant, runs across the bottom.

"I believe this first project does not represent the best side of our city, or the Westside, where Hurley is located and where I live," said Councilwoman Wendy Leece. "[It] seems to be mocking our city seal, and that is offensive to me.

"Barbed wire? Spray cans? Elephants? These are city symbols?"

Leece suggested that the money be allocated to local groups instead.

The actual city seal, with images of an orange tree and a sailboat in a harbor, is not being changed. Maloney said his interpretation will appeal to a younger generation who would likely buy the shirts.

"Controversy's good, when they're not talking about you — that's when you got to worry," Maloney said. "That's the Costa Mesa I know, and again, it's just my point of view. There really was no intent that I'm really going to stick it to the city."

The plan was for Maloney's design to be the first of many spins on the seal that could raise money for charity and make the city seem, well, cool.

The city is seeking input on expanding the proposed program to other iconic Costa Mesa-based companies.

"These T-shirts will sell out," Maloney said. "[Leece is] getting hung up on a moot point. The outcome of this is just one artist's take, and no one is going to profit."

Maloney said he will not change the design.

The city is looking to sell 1,953 shirts for $19.53 each, a nod to the year Costa Mesa was incorporated.

The committee meeting is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. Feb. 9 at City Hall, 77 Fair Drive.

Twitter: @JosephSerna

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