David Lester’s Artist Statement

The Magnet Series: 2009-2012

Normal History: the Art of David Lester

Artist Statement:

The Magnet series began in March of 2009 after Jean Smith’s enthusiastic suggestion for innovative ways to present art. This was not unusual enthusiasm. Jean and I have collaborated on our rock duo, Mecca Normal, for twenty-eight years, and encouraging each other has greatly contributed to the longevity of our shared and independent creative work.

I contacted Philadelphia-based Magnet, one of the few surviving magazines with a long history of covering alternative music, and editor Eric Miller responded positively to the idea of a weekly drawing and caption. At that time, Magnet had stopped publishing a print version and moved online (the print version re-appeared in 2012). Eric called the new series Normal History, 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 25-year run.”

Eric and I decided to include a free download of a Mecca Normal song each week. This seemed like a way to connect my visual art to my music. I wrote the caption for Volume 1 in the series, but then Jean had another idea.

“David and I almost always edit each other’s writing and very frequently, during that process, I get really great ideas that go beyond proofreading into the creation of totally new work,” Jean Smith interjects. “Thankfully David is very supportive of this process; he recognizes it from how Mecca Normal functions. Within our creative partnership, during songwriting, David usually has the music ready when we first get together. I then attach melody and lyrics to what exists musically. Likewise with the Magnet series; his caption seemed like an opportunity for me to add my perspective and then, before I knew it the captions were taking up more space than his illustrations. I started writing about my online dating experiences, sections of my novels-in-progress popped up, as did rants about family, social injustice and, every now and then, a story that complied with the statement of intention, from the history of Mecca Normal, but we’ve never been a coloring-inside-the-lines kind of band, and, to his credit, editor Eric Miller has never tried to get things back on track. I began to like it much more when the illustration had no discernable connection to the text, which I had started loading up with hypertext that ideally took readers off in a third direction to videos, articles and photographs. Yet, as the curator of the column’s components, there was a correlation that satisfied my artistic mandate of not being overly literal and I started to see the series as a demonstration of how David and I work together in other disciplines. We are supportive in the infrastructure and yet there is tension in our collaborative work. When Mecca Normal takes the stage, for instance, I don’t stand in the middle. We share the space and David isn’t playing background music to my voice. The guitar volume and the voice battle it out at every show. With Magnet, we arrived at what has now stabilized in the same way as our other ventures are decided on. We simply start and working on the thing is actually the fun part! I am grateful to Eric Miller for supplying us with this new terrain, weekly space in Magnet.”

In The Magnet Series, the art is displayed in its raw, tactile form. Many of the pieces were drawn in a café in Vancouver where I sat observing people around me. I worked quickly, creating loose interpretations. Later I taped the sketches to my drawing table and added details, word balloons and paint. The content of the work sometimes refers to Mecca Normal’s history, or current events like Occupy Wall Street, or lesser political histories, but mostly they are sketches of social interactions, a barometer of the world we live in. It is in cafés where the state of affairs between men and women are glimpsed, but also where hushed voices are creating brave new worlds of optimism.

The Listener graphic novel excerpts (11 x 17″ digital prints)

Based on a true story, The Listener reveals a tragic act that changed the course of history. Complacency, art and murder collide in Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, while the parallel fictional story features Louise Shearing, an artist searching for meaning in the art of Europe after the death of a political activist. The Listener was a finalist for ForeWord Reviews‘ “2011 Book of The Year Award” in the graphic novel category.

Artist Biography:

David Lester is a painter, graphic designer and cartoonist who is best known  as the guitar player in the underground rock duo Mecca Normal. He is the author of The Listener graphic novel (Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2011) and The Gruesome Acts of Capitalism (Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2006). His work is archived online at The Black Dot Museum of Political Art: blackdotmuseum.wordpress.com

Contact: meccanormal@hotmail.com



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