Normal History Vol. 763: 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 40-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

In the realm of paintings and drawings, everything is represented instantly to the viewer. Ideas expressed in films, books and music all take time. Unless your painting, like David Lester’s, is a film of him painting. I just saw it and wrote him this email which turned into a review!

“Great to see you combining visual art with your music, noting overarching political nuances, referencing Durutti’s ideas, but with the overlaying and altering of paint in motion, it looked like very recent events in a condensed history through time. Even the sense of reverence and permanence viewers expect from a static painting are questioned as areas are thoughtfully constructed only to be destroyed with sweeping gestures, replaced in the cycle by things that start to look like buildings … again. Animation and social commentary like we’ve never experienced before.”

Visual art without words is open to interpretation. In this context, in our shared column, I am the interpreter of David’s illustrations. That is, if the viewer chooses to read the words.

So, what’s up with this woman? Will I force her to represent what I’m thinking about today? Is her steely gaze directed at me, or will I, with words, turn it on you? She looks confident and perturbed, but what about?

I’ll tell you that she isn’t known for staying silent when there’s an injustice afoot, yet, as much as she may be an angry victim, she is loath to employ revenge, to visit that same pain on others. Knowing that retaliating in that way won’t ease her pain, recognizing that such actions would be ethically wrong.

She is that woman. Contrary to the song lyrics, where a woman takes revenge after she is assaulted by a stranger on a beach. Actually, she totally snaps and 12 people end up dead. The song, a fictional account, ends there, unlike real-life scenarios that play out over decades of compounding pain.

“12 Murders” from Calico Kills The Cat (K, 1988) (download):