Roman Charity - video by Ellen Wetmore

Roman Charity by Ellen Wetmore

Pliny the Elder tells us this version of roman charity story : “A plebeian woman of low position who had just given birth to a child, had permission to visit her mother, who had been shut up in prison as a punishment, and was always searched in advance by the doorkeeper to prevent her carrying in any food. She was detected giving her mother sustenance from her own breasts. In consequence of this marvel the daughter’s pious affection was rewarded by the mother’s release and both were awarded maintenance for life.” While Cimon and Pero is well covered in art history, never do we see evidence of Pliny the Elder's version of the story in which a woman feeds her own mother. This story of salvation is one Ellen Wetmore has elected to tell.

At the bottom of this post is a piece of work, inspired by this story and created by E. Wetmore. The artist shared with us a statement about her own work.

"My process involves intensively planned studio video shoots using professional lighting and cameras, digital collage and extensive sound Foley work. Most of this work I do myself; I collaborate with my spouse, Jeffu Warmouth on many technical aspects; occasionally I hire actors, musicians, or other specialists." explains Ellen Wetmore. "I use myself primarily to perform the figurative roles, because my final works are an attempt at physical longevity and immortality – futile since the medium itself is transitory – and they are an exercise in the physical performance of anxiety and the abject. I feel a need to refocus what is socially seen and unseen and to force a pause in the viewer, in order to re-see something to which they may have become inured. I am preoccupied by beauty and I believe images should be beautiful in order to both capture the viewer and to underline the horror I often associate with the investigation of the body and psyche." "Charity builds on a series begun in 2006 called the Joys of Motherhood in which I use performance, video and sculpture to address my physical and emotional experiences as a mother (2006-2010)." adds Ellen. "Unlike narrative film and video, my video art projects are single gestures recording a moment of emotion and meant to be viewed in an endless loop. Images in the film reference the Pieta and Maderno's St. Cecilia."

Roman Charity from Ellen Wetmore on Vimeo.

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Old woman, no teeth

In the Tang Dynasty, an official named Cui Nanshan, had in his family the Grand Dame Zhang Sun, Mr. Cui's great-grandmother.