Relic was a series of aluminum sculptures that used disjointed pieces of chairs as a starting point. I had found a couple of old chairs with cabriole legs, three toed claw feet and a harp-shaped pierced splat. While researching the history of chairs, I was particularly fascinated by ancient furniture: the Egyptian chair with lion legs to indicate high-ranking officials to the gazelle-like curve of the cabriole leg known to the ancient Chinese and Greek civilizations. Notwithstanding animal forms, the chair itself bears the trace of the human body by the mere naming of its parts - back, arms, legs, seat, feet. The empty chair always refers to an absent body. More

Noli Me Tangere (Touch me not)

Noli Me Tangere

Noli Me Tangere (Touch me not), 1995

Cast aluminium with steel wire coil of plaster casts
Collection of the artist
© Julie Lapalme

Technique: These bones started as clay pieces. I then made plaster versions to insert into the wood mold for the sand casting. I inserted a steel wire coil in one of the negative shapes in the sand before casting. I chased and sandblasted the bones and soaked them in a lye-based patina which ate away at the surface.

Declawed / Bones


Declawed / Bones, 1995

Cast aluminium modified chair legs
Permanent collection, Nova Scotia Art Bank
© Julie Lapalme

Technique: I carved the cabriole wooden chair legs so that they resembled bones, calling up the original reference to the animal evoked in the chair design. Though it was a claw foot, the claws did not seem dangerous  - divorced from their original function on a wild animal. Declawed, disjointed. I simply chased and sandblasted the casts to dull the surface.

Esse Quam Videri (To be rather than to seem)
Esse Quam Videri

Esse Quam Videri (To be rather than to seem to be), 1996

Cast aluminium of a modified wooden chair back
Collection of the artist
© Julie Lapalme

Technique: I adorned the splat with veneer I took from another surface, an old cupboard panel from the seventies. This splat was particularly difficult to cast because of the harp-like “strings”: in fact, the first cast was not successful because the irregular surfaces trapped the sand. I sanded the wood form considerably before restarting the process. After chasing the lines of the second piece, I sandblasted the surface and used white paint as patina. I then inscribed ESSE QUAM VIDERI on the front with metal stamps. The title seemed to correspond with the practice of using thin sheets of veneer to cover something up of little value.


I wanted to explore the theme of loss and broken lineage with this absent body using the chair as a sort of stand in. We know of the religious signification of the word relic when a piece of the body or a personal item of a saint is venerated. I was more interested in the relic as a memory device; how an object can be kept for its association with the past. How this coveted past can become almost like a fetish. While fetishism occurs when attributing religious or mystical qualities to inanimate objects, what of virtual objects? Can the absent body suggested by the chair become a fetish? What is lost grows in importance by its very absence.

The three pieces in the series also played with the theme of transmutation: the chair as a stand in for the body that is disjointed then transformed once again into cast aluminium sculptures. Lacking the structure that made them whole, they are incomplete, harmless, lost.