Trout Mask Replica painting by Cal Schenkel
Even if the name Cal Schenkel doesn’t quite ring a bell, there is very little doubt that you’ve seen his illustrations, photography and collage work work adorning literally dozens of iconic album covers by Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention, The Fugs, Tom Waits and Captain Beefheart. He was basically Zappa’s visual partner for longer than a decade working on the covers for Straight/Bizarre releases and rented a wing of the Zappa family home in Laurel Canyon for his live-in art studio. Schenkel is the guy who hollowed out the carp for Don Van Vliet to wear on the Trout Mask Replica cover—that stinky photo shoot was said to have taken over two hours—and he’s the fellow who realized the Sgt. Pepper‘s goof for We’re Only In It for the Money. He’s got a primitive “ragged” illustration style (which predates punk graphics) that is distinctly his own and Schenkel a master of creating humorous and strikingly surreal images that have intrigued generations of record buyers, inspiring a certain meme in recent years and even Halloween pumpkins.
Over the weekend I ended up on Cal Schenkel’s website and it occurred to me that many DM readers would probably like to know about what’s on offer there. For starters, his prices are fantastic, more in line with what an Etsy crafts-person might sell their wares for than the price tags something for sale on the wall of an art gallery would have. The work is priced to sell. Schenkel’s a working artist living in rural Pennsylvania and this is how he pays his bills without having to deal with the rigmarole of the art world—he’s had just two solo exhibitions of his art in the past 20 years. More power to him, and to you, especially if you happen to be a Zappa fan—there are rumored to be many of you among DM’s readership—who likes art and getting a damned good bargain.
For as little as $200 you can get a portfolio of thirteen mostly Zappa-related prints. Individual Giclée prints sell for as little as $25. You can get a signed photograph of Captain Beefheart taken by Schenkel. He does hand-painted caricatures of one of your favorite mustachioed guitarists. He does hand-painted versions of some of his famous album covers, too. And like I was saying, the prices are right. Personally I feel like he’s underselling his work, but I happen to be a big admirer of Cal Schenkel’s art.
See more at Cal Schenkel’s website.
Below, Frank Zappa and Cal Schenkel invent Adult Swim back in 1971 with the “Dental Hygiene Dilemma” animation from 200 Motels: