David was born in Red Bank, New Jersey, brought on by a severely dysfunctional, and abusive family, and an emerging sense of his own homosexuality, he dropped out of high school and was living on the streets by the age of sixteen. He turned to hustling in Times Square. After hitchhiking many times across the U.S. and living for several months in San Francisco and Paris, he settled in New York's East Village in 1978.
By the early 1980s, thank to his provocative works, he had become like graffiti artists Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, a vital fixture in the East Village art scene in lower Manhattan.
David had his first solo exhibitions in New York in the early 1980s. In 1985 he had a major exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. His growing prominence as a nationally recognized artist is witnessed by invitations to participate in the 1987 and 1991 Whitney Biennials at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.
He came to maturity as a contemporary artist and writer during a decade when the arts sought increasingly to address issues of gender, race, and ethnicity. A younger postmodern generation of artists gave expression to these concerns in non-traditional media and often worked in multimedia.
David endured a difficult childhood and struggled to make sense of his homosexuality - subjects that became a central theme in his art. During the height of a national controversy in 1989 concerning morality and censorship in the arts - engendered by an exhibition of photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe - David became embroiled in scandal himself.
Following attacks from a host of politicians and religious leaders who called his work "pornographic" and "blasphemous," the National Endowment for the Arts revoked a ten-thousand-dollar grant for an AIDS-related exhibition in which David was to participate.
He challenged the NEA's ruling and, at the same time, brought a lawsuit against the conservative political action group the American Family Association for misrepresenting his art. He eventually won both campaigns.
His lover was Tom Rauffenbart. David died of AIDS-related complications in New York City, at the age of thirty-seven.