Orphan Train - Trained Tales

Double Loop

The Double Loop — Figure 8 Traintrack, 1998

Assemblage. (3’7" x 6’ x 4’)
Materials: Pieces of fence, hinges, locks, found wood, collage
Collection of the artist
© Julie Lapalme
All photos taken by Sandra L. Bélanger


Re-Make Re-Model

"A seemingly enigmatic piece, Double Loop – Figure 8 Train Track is constructed from found and distressed shaped wood, door locks, and hinges. The silhouette which Lapalme constructs, however, is a crisp, font-like representation of the number ‘8’ when viewed vertically but also that of an infinity loop when viewed horizontally.

In the years since her graduation from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 1995, Lapalme has been working in digital multimedia as well as making complex found-object and found-material constructions often built from discarded house parts such as doors and windows. Double Loop – Figure 8 Train Track was remarkably ‘clean’ looking compared to the complex accretions of her other work. ‘Clean’ however, is not synonymous with simple.

Lapalme was an adopted child. As an adult, she is constantly searching for clues about her past, something which has become the subject matter for much of her work. Lapalme states:

There is a play on using found objects with a fragmented or unknown past, to reflect the foundling or adoptee’s own blurry knowledge of her/his genealogical history. I take pleasure in including cast-off, unwanted objects into larger productions – like casting unknowns in a play. I am giving order to their sad displacement. I am attracted to old objects because in their disrepair and worn surfaces, there is more room for inventing narratives. While evoking nostalgia, weathered material also triggers different memories for each person.

Figure ‘8’s and infinity loops are evocative of both time and space. The tension created by the roughness of the materials formed into such precise ciphers is subject matter unto itself, laden with metaphoric associations. Lapalme’s agenda, however, is highly programmed. She continues:

My recent project, the CD Rom Orphan Train – Trained Tales, uses the rail-yard with its network of interconnecting patterns to represent the family tree root system: growing and extending by both natural and social (divorce, remarriage, and adoption) configurations. The CD delves into the history of the Orphan Train and its ties to the closed adoption system, exploring the trained tales around adoption.

Further connections are made by Lapalme. She alludes to the figure ‘8’/infinity loop as a similar visual cipher to the “pretzel-like DNA super-coil which is an apt metaphor for the potential of expanding self knowledge.” Her allusion here is to proposed changes within adoption laws which would allow people access to genetic information when searching for birth parents.

Lapalme was the last artist assembled into Re-make/Re-model. Her piece, visually the ‘simplest’ in the show, straddles the line between complex readings of publically understood signs, symbols and ciphers and a directed personal narrative. Double Loop – Figure 8 Train Track is a testament to the multiple agendas which are often layered within works of art. Indeed, I believe it will be difficult for me to think of found wood and discarded objects in the future as mere raw materials. Instead, I will be conditioned forever to treat displaced materials, bric-a-brac, and ‘stuff’ kicking around as things which have been orphaned from their original place." (p. 14)

—Peter Dykhuis, Curator


Re-Make Re-Model


Assembled work by Bruce Johnson, Julie Lapalme,
Barbara Lounder, James MacSwain, and Bernard Siller

Peter Dykhuis, Curator
Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
13 February - 11 April 1999


The Bed Box Theatre  l  The Bingo Staircase  l  The Home For Little Wanderers  l  The Dresser & The Closet
The Double Loop — Figure 8 Traintrack  l  Declawed (Ghost Limbs)