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Ellen Wetmore

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  • Smoke
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Birth year

Lives in

Works in


School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2000, MFA
Tufts University, 2000, MFA
University of Michigan, 1994, BFA

exhibition/performance, sculpture, surrealism, photography, digital, figurative, video-art, realism, feminism video-art



Grotesques is a series of video based compositions based on a deep study of the Grotesque Italian frescos on the ceiling of the artist’s corridor in the Uffizi, Florence. While I study these every time I visit, this time I would like to spend extended time with them (more than the usual 20 minute, one afternoon visit) and specifically research, visually, the connection between this work and the Imperial Roman frescoes that were discovered around the same period that these were painted. Ultimately, the goal is for me to make a new body of work. Within these stylistic frameworks, I will interject my cast of surrealist characters, video based performances, and feminist concerns. As I discovered the last time I was in Rome, the quality of light and color is warmer there than in Massachusetts and it would behoove me to shoot more footage in that light, which is tough to recreate here, and with the architectural props and weird juxtapositions widely available in the ruins of ancient Rome

Grotesques is a new direction for me inspired by a deep love of traditional Renaissance technique offset by my joy of Surrealism. I use surreal image metaphors to communicate a general state of anxiety and abject horror that I carry about the world. I interpret Alessandro Allori’s Uffizi Grotesques ceiling frescos as a kind of natural history collection of real and imaginary characters. Woven into his scenes are examples of humans, monsters, allegory, architecture, and plants and animals with no distinction between real and unnatural. Busy as they are and intended for a sophisticated audience, I imagine they also held local social commentary like the Decameron, only lost to us now.

"Visiting Dora Maar" began as a study of “falling apart” and “pulling oneself together”, visually considered in the lens of the canonical art history portrait. Dora Maar, an artist, was Picasso’s lover. He created a portrait where her features seem to fracture, move about in space and time and come undone. I evolved this into a moving image meditation of identity and self-assembly using video images of myself.

The gesture depicted in “Shredding” is to mutely grind my head away at a stack of art material, loosing my physical body in the process. "Shredding" is a meditation on my art predecessors, who are intimidating and who are shown in the video in art monograph book form.
Navel Gazing” is rooted in discoveries of motherhood and the psychological and physical transformations of this new state of being. The maternal body morphs in uncontrollable ways and a weird alchemy occurs in the gut. "Navel Gazing", is a play on the narcissism of motherhood and the horror of the unexpected thing growing inside. "Up in Smoke" came from a dream.
“Sleep Deprivation will be Televised” is a self portrait inspired by insomnia and the muddle of dreams and late night television that occupies the space of sleep. Ultimately these images transform the user into nothing more than a cathode ray tube head


Ellen Wetmore’s artworks inspire a blend of humor and horror. Her work focuses on lived experience blended with well-honed paranoia, using her body as the primary vehicle. Wetmore’s video projects have been featured in screenings at the Sandwell Arts Trust in the West Midlands, UK, Ciné Lumière in London, the Dorsky Gallery in Long Island, NY, Currents, Santa Fe, New Mexico, CologneOff, Cologne, Germany, Videoholica in Bulgaria, and the MIA screen in Cairo. Her most recent work is on the 80-foot tall 7-screen marquee at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. She is a 2012 School of the Museum of Fine Arts Traveling Fellow and a finalist for the Museum of Fine Arts Boston solo show award. In 2014 she was the subject of an exhibition at the Sarah Doyle Gallery of Brown University and in 2015 she had a solo show at Living Arts of Tulsa. She was a summer 2015 visiting artist at the American Academy of Rome and served as a juror for the video dance festival InShadow of Lisbon. In 2016 she will be a resident at Signal Culture in Owego, New York, and at Shenkar College of Engineering and Design. Her work can be found online at, and on Vimeo. “Art is the mitigation of an atrocious world.” She lives in Groton, Massachusetts and is an Associate Professor of Art at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.

Recent Exhibits

Ellen Wetmore participated in these exhibits:

Jun, 2016 Private Viewing: For Your Eyes Only
Islip Art Museum
Oct, 2013 MIA presents LUCID STREAMING
Armory Center for the Arts
Mar, 2013 B*tch Fest
Upstairs at the Market Gallery
Jan, 2013 Art on the Marquee
Boston Convention Center
Dec, 2011 WATCH IT
Taubman Museum of Art
Nov, 2010 Mothers
Woman Made Gallery
Click here to see all exhibits for Ellen Wetmore
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