Gary Lucas   Don Van Vliet Artwork  
  "Chinese Fisherman"

Signed Van Vliet 80"

ink, watercolor, graphite and colored pencil on paper

17 7/8" x 23 1/2"

A present from Don Van Vliet to Gary Lucas in 1980, while visiting NYC for the mastering of the Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band album "Doc at the Radar Station" (Virgin Records). Throughout his career, Don was intrigued by Chinese art and culture, and lyrically this was first reflected in his composition "Hobo Chang Ba" on 1969's landmark Captain Beefheart double album "Trout Mask Replica" (Straight), which concerns the inner thoughts of an itinerant immigrant Chinese laborer in the American West riding the rails as a hobo. In fact, Don Van Vliet's radical music of this period inspired the naively innocent comment from his mother Sue Vliet: "Your music sounds kind of Chinese-y, Don"(!) In fact, Don was later very much taken by the music of Chow Hsuan and Bai Kwong, the famous 30's pop divas from Shanghai, when I first played it for him in 1979, and when we performed at the Beacon Theater in NYC in Nov 1980 he requested their songs be played over the PA before we went on. The apotheosis of Don Van Vliet's love of Chinese culture was reached musically on the "Doc at the Radar Station" album in the composition "Sheriff of Hong Kong", wherein he performs on a pair of antique Chinese opera gongs given to him by myself and my ex-wife Ling, and also intones the phrase "Woh ai ni shaujieh" (I love you young lady), which I taught him phonetically. When he presented this beautiful watercolor to me, he pointed out the arched blackened contours of what he described as a "Chinese fisherman" thrusting a fishing rod held in his right hand into the white waters of the center lower left of the drawing. Note the profile of the tear-eyed wolf on the lower right side of the drawing, a typical Van Vliet trope of embedding animal (and sometimes human, insectile, and microbial) faces in the recesses of his artwork.