Normal History Vol. 651: The Art Of David Lester

Every week, 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 37-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

“My thoughts are chased by dogs trapped in Instamatic snapshots.”

In using a line from the lyrics of “The Dogs” as a caption for David’s illustration, I am subverting whatever meaning he gave the image for another purpose. I do this every week, evaluating how meaning and perception shift in our collaborative process.

It’s similar when we work on songs, but with a lot more discussion. Dave has music that he’s worked out. He plays it. I sing with it, and then I usually have ideas on how to change the music to better fit the words. Either I am accommodated, misunderstood (talking about parts of music is tricky) or informed that I’m tampering with a part of the music that has a function that if changed would alter some other feature of the song.

Dave is open to how I alter the meaning of his images. He’ll be OK that the caption frames “imprisonment” as a mental state rather than the physical imprisonment the image suggests. Our process has a sense of doing things backward or willfully misinterpreting the drawing for another purpose. I think he’s OK with this, too. Maybe I’ll ask him one day. 

The Dogs” from Water Cuts My Hands (K/Matador, 1990) (download):