“Acceptance is what I’m after”: David Jester paints the pool as a metaphor for love and the gay community
The American artist has always found solace in the pool, whether it’s for the memories, cleanliness or the distortion of shapes found within.
- Ayla Angelos
- 21 July 2020
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
What is it about water that attracts so many artists to it as a subject matter? Is it the serenity, gentle blue hues or the past memories that resonate through its ripples? For David Jester, an artist born in Palm Springs, California, there’s so much about it that he loves, “besides just the experience of being in water,” he tells It’s Nice That.
Having always painted as a kid, David steered naturally to the medium for the “quiet solace of art making” that it provided. After earning his MFA from Rutgers in Sculpture – a pursuit that came after his undergrad and graduate schooling – he was then fortunate to have American artist Geoffrey Hendricks as a mentor, who really helped him find his own voice as an artist. Although, it took David a few years before being able to sustain himself full-time in the arts; “my last ‘real’ job being a producer for Sony, all of things,” he says, soon to realise how unfulfilling corporate life can be.
Water, or the pool specifically, has always fuelled the work that David creates. He draws up various metaphors found within this subject, whether that’s specific memories, cleanliness, bodily fluids or the distortion and shapes that occur within. “Water is everything, it is life,” he adds. “It is a shared fluid we all have in common. It can represent purity and cleanliness or the desire for it.” Alongside this, all of his subjects are gay men. He continues by saying how pools are “great”, especially as they are a “separate world” from that which exists outside of the water – both physically and with the contrasting observations of those in and out of its parameter. “They isolate this group of people yet the boundary is fluid,” he adds. “People inside or outside the pool have a slightly distorted view of each other, and so it was a perfect tool to explain the gay community alongside the straight community, and also how these guys present themselves or interact with each other.”
Elsewhere, although thinking it may sound “super corny”, his grandmother is a huge influence, despite the fact that she’s been gone for six years. “She had a love for the beauty in life, she lived for the goodness,” he says, “she had the hope to dream and determination to make the things she imagined happen, and lived every day with gratitude.” By following the steps of his grandmother and creating mesmerisingly stunning work, David also points out how the “old producer” in him certainly allows for a different approach to creativity, especially as it’s made him more disciplined compared to when he was younger. As such, he creates 30 paintings a year, all of which range from 36 inches wide and can be as big as 60 inches, with each taking up to 150 hours of work. “I plan out a month at a time, scheduling each day for 12 hours of work, and I pretty much stick to my schedule – paintings wont paint themselves.”
David now steers towards the narrative of his paintings, and how each beholds their own larger story or a “chapter” of sorts. To keep organised, he keeps a journal of concepts and ideas that he jots down his narratives in, and in another he books in the models. “With the models, I do drawings and photography for reference,” he adds of his process, explaining that he starts with a drawing and finishes with paint – usually oil-based and by rotating three or five paintings at a time.
When tasked to pick out a favourite piece, David finds this tricky as they “all inform each other”. But there’s one image in particular that resonates the most, and that’s the painting called Home. “Two friends of mine modelled for it, who have been together for more than 20 years,” he says, “they were childhood friends.” Within this piece, the couple are in an embrace and are swimming with each other. “That painting is with the Leslie Lohman Museum and my hope is that 100 years from now, someone will see that painting and think of love and not two men embracing.”
As a whole, David paints his subjects without the intention of it being “overly erotic” and, instead, hopes that the viewer finds acceptance in them as they are. “Naked, for sure, but vulnerable and how they came into this world,” he says. “I guess acceptance is what I’m after.”