Object of Her Affection

Nothing can unseat this artist’s muse.

The 1970s were a heady time to be in New York’s publishing universe. While crossing paths with luminaries like Calvin Klein, Richard Avedon, and Irving Penn, Ossining-based artist Rochelle Udell never lost her feel for the magic of the commonplace. “To look at objects is to understand their stories,” she says. “Objects have lives.”

During editorial meetings, Udell would draw what was in the room. “Inevitably, that was chairs!” she says with a laugh. Soon, the seats of humankind became a bit of an obsession, and Udell filled dozens of sketch pads with drawings of the things people sit on. Leaving the pages of Vogue and Ms. behind, she began a second artistic life.

A poster of Pablo Neruda’s “Ode to the Chair” was her beginning. She formed the stanzas into a chair-shaped piece. Having recently purchased some modern Corbusier armchairs, Udell invited her mother to take a gander. Mom’s opinion: “Maybe one day you’ll have the money to get them covered.” Amused rather than outraged, Udell did just what mom suggested, and the result is what you see on this page: chairs covered in exotic slipcovers. Does she sit on these functional works of art? Naturally.

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