The Source for Contemporary Art Quilts, Exhibitions & Appraisals

CASTELLI LOVERS/SACKLER NICKNACKS is a two-sided quilt about the uses of art, ancient and modern.

CASTELLI LOVERS, which is currently mounted as the front of the quilt, is a portrait of Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, two of the twentieth century's greatest and most influential artists. Both men were represented by New York dealer Leo Castelli, hence the quilt's title. Although they had been lovers for several years , Rauschenberg cautiously introduced Johns to Castelli as his downstairs neighbor when Castelli discovered Johns's work on a visit to Rauschenberg's studio in 1958.

Chas Marlin says the quilt is intended to illustrate the couple's closeted relationship during the 1950s and to honor their powerful influence on art in the second half of the twentieth century. Their pioneering work helped set the stage for Pop, Minimal, and Conceptual art.

Johns , the blue figure on the left, holds his finger to Rauschenberg's lips. One of his trademark painted targets decorates his chest, while a Log Cabin quilt lies at Rauschenberg's feet, a reference to his controversial 1955 painted combine Bed, now in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, while its house shape hints at the men's relationship. Rauschenberg has the name Judy tattooed on his arm, a reference to Judy Garland, the queen of gay culture and to Rauschenberg's own sexuality. (He included photos and autographs of Garland in several of his combines. For more on Johns and Rauschenberg's relationship and art, read "The Art of Code" by Jonathan Katz.

Chas Marlin explains that SACKLER NICKNACKS, currently the back of the quilt, is "a cartoon of one of the galleries in the Smithsonian's Sackler Museum. The gallery has a series of polished wood display cases chucked full of what a curator randomly thought was precious. The shelves of the cartoon hold the present assortment as well ghosts of past selections.The shadowy outlines of the appliquéd objects show on the front of the quilt, creating a dialogue between old and new, ancient and modern, and raises questions about the relationship between fine and decorative art that is particularly appropriate to the quilt medium.

Chas Marlin is a retired university professor whose mother was a quiltmaker. He began making quilts in 1978, and his work is included in several museum collections. He says that quiltmakers "should insist that quilts should be judged as all other art is. I do not work in a 'minor' art medium, jut as the painter does not work in a 'major' art medium. All artists do the same things—they create art."

As noted, the quilt currently has a sleeve attached to the back, but this could easily be changed so that SACKLER NICKNACKS is seen as the front.


Contact Robert Shaw for more information or to purchase

Back to the Shannon Collection

Castelli Lovers by Chas Marlin, back

Castelli Lovers by Chas Marlin, back detail Castelli Lovers by Chas Marlin, detail back

Details of SACKLER NICKNACKS appliqués

Toward Barred Island by Gayle Fraas and Duncan Slade (detail)

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Toward Barred Island by Gayle Fraas and Duncan Slade (detail)

Bottom left and right: Toward Barred Island (detail) by Gayle Fraas and Duncan Slade