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 32-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.
“The eight-minute title track finds father and daughter at each other’s throats.” —Franklin Bruno, Boston Phoenix, in a review of Mecca Normal’s album The Family Swan
Back in 2002, when this song was written, no one, least of all my parents, thought they’d still be alive in 2016! They have become physically more frail, yet mentally, at 91 and 96, they are pretty together. They live independently in a mobile home par, and I talk to them once a week on the phone. My rapport with both of them has changed drastically. For the better with my father, with whom I am now quite unfiltered. I’ve allowed him to see how amusing I am, and we laugh a lot more than we used to! With my mother, the elder of the two, I feel more distant as her hearing and memory fail her.
It is surreal to be doing and selling portrait paintings after quitting my most recent part-time job in mid-April. Surreal because I began painting self-portraits at age 13, and now I’m painting full time, reconnecting with what became a secondary practice for many years. Secondary to music and writing. Thirdary, really. Surreal because, so far, I’ve been able to earn enough to pay my bills painting! Also surreal because my parents (the semi-autobiographical subjects of the song “Family Swan”) were both professional painters, and now, suddenly, they’re very interested that I am selling paintings hand over fist from my Facebook page.
They are very critical and vociferous people who tend to express their negativity with a certain amount of glee. Having done some work on myself in recent years, I was only slightly nervous about showing them a silent video of all the paintings. Turns out they were very impressed! Years after I stopped wanting or needing parental validation, I got me some!
I recently added a monologue to the video of all the paintings that touches on my early introduction to the concept of quality, and my indoctrination into believing that paintings are about human interactions and, essentially, part of those same interactions.
“Family Swan” from the album The Family Swan (Kill Rock Stars, 2002) (download):