Normal History Vol. 415: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 33-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

“One Woman” is David’s favorite song on Calico Kills The Cat, K Records’ third album release (1989).

“Musically, it revolves around two chords,” David explains. “One rises, one falls. The struggle between the two worked perfectly with the lyric content: one person’s efforts for change.”

Calico is filled with similar stories—various unique individuals’ efforts for change. Like the K Records site says, “This one’s got it all: love, murder, hate, frying pans, jealousy, prison, bullets, bonfires and a blue TV behind the iron curtain. Wordsmith Jean takes on the world.” And rather than simply being text in an advertising campaign (circa 1989), it’s evidence of the way I tend to infuse the music David creates with lyrics that are explicitly political.

The painting series I started a year ago isn’t always, painting by painting, overtly political, but since I’m known as a cultural activist, I feel a lot of support for what I’m doing, yet I feel pressure to make the paintings more political. Part of my project includes making a living selling the paintings in order to create, exhibit and perform my “more political” work as Mecca Normal, but I feel a sense of guilt at not having political art ready for every injustice as it happens—which is implausible at the current rate injustices are being hurled.

On Thursday I made and posted “political art” out of my “not always overtly political” paintings of women using an animated music video featuring my paintings in a Devo cover band. This got me to thinking about how art can be used after it is created to make “more political” statements later on. Also … political art can be funny. I don’t know what other people’s paintings have done recently, but mine have formed two cover bands and made music videos.

Sometimes people ask me why I don’t paint celebrities. Maybe it’s going to be more interesting to use non-famous subjects and see what happens to them after I paint them.

“One Woman” from the album Calico Kills The Cat (K, 1989) (download):